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The Promise of Photobiomodulation for Alzheimer’s Patients

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease causes 34.4 deaths per 100,000 of population. This makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the country. That’s a sobering statistic on its own, but when you think about what it represents, it is even worse. More than almost any other illness, Alzheimer’s disease stresses families. Any long-term or fatal medical condition can play havoc with family life, but because Alzheimer’s manifests itself as behavioral changes in the patient, it can be uniquely heartbreaking. As it destroys memory, it tends to erode the self. This is stressful for the family of the Alzheimer’s patient, but it may be even worse for the patient himself or herself. It’s no wonder one of the hallmarks of the disease is angry outbursts. As our country’s population ages, more and more families are being introduced to the disease and its devastating effects.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and existing treatments have serious limitations. “As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain’s nerve cells.”

The photo is from an Alzheimer’s Walk in 2013, take at Atlantic Station, Atlanta, GA. Photo credit: Susumu Komatsu. (Creative Commons license.) As far as I know, the dog doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but is willing to wear the tee shirt. 

But the outlook for Alzheimer’s is far from hopeless. An August 2017 paper in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery has caused a great deal of excitement in the Alzheimer’s community. The paper reported on a 16-week study of five patients suffering from moderately severe dementia. For the first 12 weeks, the patients were treated with photobiomodulation (PBM), and for the next four weeks, the treatments were stopped. According to the authors, “Increased function, better sleep, fewer angry outbursts, less anxiety, and wandering were reported post-PBM. There were no negative side effects. Precipitous declines were observed during the follow-up no-treatment, 4-week period.” In other words, Alzheimer’s patients had a dramatic reduction of symptoms while they were being treated with PBM. Not only that, but the effects were reversed when the treatments stopped.

PBM therapy is in its infancy. But there are currently over 400 clinical trials and 4000 laboratory studies on PBM Therapy, with 30 new research papers a month being reported on Pub Med. For an overview of how PBM works, see our video. Can our PBM service relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? The patients in the study I have cited here were treated with a headset that includes a light wand placed in a nostril. We don’t offer anything like that. In our PBM sessions, you lie in a light bed, and your entire body is bathed in carefully calibrated wavelengths of light. It’s worth noting that the study’s authors believe that PBM works by stimulating the production of ATP within cells. ATP is the fuel that powers cell activity. We believe it is the reduction of oxidative stress and consequent stimulation of ATP production that causes nearly all our users to report reduced pain and muscle spasms and a general feeling of well being after a session.

We can’t cure Alzheimer’s. Nobody can. But a PBM session at Peak Recovery & Health Center only takes 10-12 minutes, which is a small investment for something that may improve a patient’s quality of life.