Ophthalmol Ther. 2023 Sep 28. doi: 10.1007/s40123-023-00812-y. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Photobiomodulation (PBM) relies on the pathophysiological mechanism whereby red to near-infrared light can target mitochondrial activity and promote ATP synthesis. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown promising results in treating intermediate age-related macular degeneration (AMD), since PBM can produce photochemical reactions in endogenous retinal chromophores. Currently, PBM is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of intermediate AMD. This narrative review aimed to evaluate the available evidence on the effectiveness and safety of PBM in treating intermediate AMD.
METHODS: A comprehensive search was conducted using the PubMed database, employing the keywords “photobiomodulation” and “age-related macular degeneration.” All English-language studies published up to June 2023 were reviewed, and the search was expanded to include relevant references from selected articles. The included publications were analyzed for this review.
RESULTS: The available studies on PBM in AMD demonstrated promising but inconsistent results. PBM showed potential in improving best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and contrast sensitivity (CS) in patients with AMD. Some studies also suggested a reduction in AMD lesions, such as drusen volume. However, the long-term efficacy and optimal treatment parameters of PBM in AMD remained to be fully determined due to the limitations of the available studies. These included variations in irradiation techniques, wavelengths, exposure times, and treatment sessions, making it challenging to generalize the effectiveness of PBM. Furthermore, the lack of accurate classification of AMD phenotypes in the available studies hindered the understanding of which phenotypes could truly benefit from this treatment. Finally, the strength of evidence varied among studies, with limited sample sizes, unpublished results, and only three randomized sham-controlled trials.
CONCLUSIONS: Currently, the effectiveness of PBM in promoting drusen resorption or preventing progression to advanced forms of AMD, as observed in the cited studies, remains uncertain.