Photobiomodulation for the treatment of retinal diseases: a review

Int J Ophthalmol. 2016 Jan 18;9(1):145-52. doi: 10.18240/ijo.2016.01.24. eCollection 2016.


Photobiomodulation (PBM), also known as low level laser therapy, has recently risen to the attention of the ophthalmology community as a promising new approach to treat a variety of retinal conditions including age-related macular degeneration, retinopathy of prematurity, diabetic retinopathy, Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy, amblyopia, methanol-induced retinal damage, and possibly others. This review evaluates the existing research pertaining to PBM applications in the retina, with a focus on the mechanisms of action and clinical outcomes. All available literature until April 2015 was reviewed using PubMed and the following keywords: "photobiomodulation AND retina", "low level light therapy AND retina", "low level laser therapy AND retina", and "FR/NIR therapy AND retina". In addition, the relevant references listed within the papers identified through PubMed were incorporated. The literature supports the conclusion that the low-cost and non-invasive nature of PBM, coupled with the first promising clinical reports and the numerous preclinical-studies in animal models, make PBM well-poised to become an important player in the treatment of a wide range of retinal disorders. Nevertheless, large-scale clinical trials will be necessary to establish the PBM therapeutic ranges for the various retinal diseases, as well as to gain a deeper understanding of its mechanisms of action.

Keywords: age-related macular degeneration; amblyopia; far-red to near-infrared; low level laser therapy; methanol toxicity; photobiomodulation; retinal degeneration; retinitis pigmentosa; retinopathy of prematurity.

Publication types

  • Review