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Laser Light Therapy in Inflammatory, Musculoskeletal, and Autoimmune Disease

Abstract

Purpose of review: The goal of this review is to summarize the field to date and to discuss strengths and limitations of low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) for the future investigation as a treatment of inflammatory disease.

Recent findings: LLLT is a promising therapeutic, particularly for those diseases of skin and joints because they are most accessible to treatment. Indeed, the known mechanisms of LLLT support its use for anti-inflammatory purposes, as well as stimulation of tissue growth and repair. Although the standard of care for the majority of inflammatory diseases is immunosuppressive agents such as corticosteroids with undesirable toxicities, LLLT offers a unique approach by being non-invasive and incurring minimal side effects. It is also relatively inexpensive and accessible and even has the possibility to be patient directed at home. There is evidence that LLLT is able to modulate the immune system at the skin and joint, and it has been shown to be efficacious in humans by affecting bacterial colonization as it may pertain to chronic rhinosinusitis. However, there is variability in the methods of laser application as well as a lack of evidence for laser type, dose-ranging studies, and wavelength selection that create barriers to the implementation of LLLT without further more rigorous and standardized study. The heterogeneity makes it difficult to draw strong conclusions about the efficacy of LLLT and its mechanisms.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Inflammatory disease; Low-level light/laser; Photodynamic therapy; Phototherapeutics; Phototherapy.

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nihms-1606173