Low-level Light Therapy for Treatment of Diabetic Foot Ulcer: A Review of Clinical Experiences

J Drugs Dermatol. 2016 Jul 1;15(7):843-8.


Background: Diabetic foot ulcers (DFU) represent a significant complication of diabetes mellitus (DM). DFU affect one in four patients with DM and treatments of DFU are limited and challenging. The management of DFU remains a significant healthcare and socioeconomic burden ($245 billion). There is a wide range of advanced therapies for DFU, but these are costly and have demonstrated only minimal efficacy in limited published studies. An emerging treatment modality to improve DFU and optimize wound healing is the use of low-level light therapy (LLLT). LLLT involves the use of light in the form of low-level or low-power laser or light emitting diodes to alter biochemical pathways, which may result in changes to cell shape, cell migration, and cell signaling.<br/>

Objective: To review published clinical experiences (case series and case reports) using LLLT for treatment of DFU, and provide evidence-based recommendations and future directions on the potential of LLLT as a therapeutic modality for DFU.<br/>

Methods and materials: On January 16, 2016 we searched the published literature using databases: PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Web of Science with key terms: "diabetic foot" AND ("low level laser therapy" OR "low level light therapy" OR "LLLT" OR "light emitting diode" OR "phototherapy" OR "laser").<br/>

Results: After screening of titles, abstracts and/or full-text, 7 original articles were suitable in our review. Our review contains 5 case series and 2 case reports that evaluated LLLT for treatment of DFU, and all reviewed studies have shown positive improvement of DFU using LLLT with no adverse events, albeit with limitations that may be minimized with future RCTs.<br/>

Conclusions: LLLT is an emerging and promising treatment modality to current alternatives that are costly and have shown limited success. Based upon the published evidence, we envision additional research may allow for stronger recommendation with LLLT for treatment of DFU. <br /><br /> <em>J Drugs Dermatol.</em> 2016;15(7):843-848.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / radiotherapy*
  • Diabetic Foot / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Foot / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome