We all lose neurons as we age. But when the loss is so great as to cause cognitive or memory problems and to interfere substantially with daily living, we say the patient is ill with dementia. Dementia is more common among the elderly than among younger people, but it is not an inevitable result of aging. You can’t generally cure dementia, but you can manage it, often by unexpected means. Thus this blog post: “Photobiomodulation for Dementia.”
Curable Vs. Manageable Dementia
There are at least two broad kinds of dementia. The first kind, progressive brain disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body Dementia) is incurable and irreversible. But in the second kind, dementia is a symptom of some condition (pressure on the brain, alcoholism, vitamin deficiency) that can often be reversed. It’s important to see a doctor if you show signs of dementia. You may be able to manage the first kind, and you can often treat the second kind.
The Mayo Clinic has a very informative page on dementia, discussing causes, risk factors, and treatments. It’s a good first stop if you’re taking a tour of dementia on behalf of a loved one who might be at risk.
Photobiomodulation for Dementia
I’m writing about “photobiomodulation for dementia,” not because PBM can treat the condition, but because it may be a useful part of a program to manage it. Research shows that PBM may slow the progress of any kind of dementia by improving the ability of cells, including neurons, to oxygenate and repair themselves. (I should note, however, that the leading authority in this area, Michael R. Hamblin, believes it works not so much by healing but by making permanent changes in neural signaling and pathways.)
An August 2017 paper in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, for example, 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 received PBM, and then for the next four weeks, received no treatments. 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.
Helmet or Bed
The clinical studies of photobiomodulation for dementia usually test the technology with LED-lined helmets, and even LED nasal probes. You won’t find those devices at a drug store, and you won’t find them at Peak Recovery & Health Center. What we offer is a PBM bed that can bathe your entire body in light shifted to the near infrared. This is called systemic PBM. Scientists are currently discussing whether PBM’s beneficial effects on brain health result more from applying it directly to the head or from systemic treatment. There are good technical arguments for systemic treatment.
Everybody agrees, however, that PBM is noninvasive and has no side effects. So if you are looking to help yourself or a loved one with the kind of systemic (i.e., whole-body) PBM we offer here at Peak Recovery & Health Center, you can do so without risk. One of our PBM sessions is usually 12 minutes long, which is a minimal time investment for a potentially massive benefit. Book a session or two.