What Is Syntonic Phototherapy?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 25, 2022
4 min read

Certain wavelengths and frequencies of light are used in syntonic phototherapy to help improve the body’s regulatory centers and to balance them out. This type of therapy has been used for over 80 years for the treatment of lazy eyes, eye turn, and problems with eye focusing. 

While it has been mainly used to treat eye issues, syntonic phototherapy has also been used to treat other disorders such as learning disorders and decrease the effects of injuries to the brain, chronic headaches, concussion, and even stress and trauma-related occurrences. 

To be effective, syntonic phototherapy must be used with the guidance of a neuro-optometrist. 

Syntonic phototherapy’s colored lights are used to help stimulate the visual system while also changing the brain’s biochemistry. The result is an improved balance between two nervous systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

Syntonic phototherapy equipment used is very basic: patients are fitted with goggles that have colored filters. There are thirteen different syntonic filters available, with only two usually being used at one time. The goggles and filters are adjusted over the eyes for the full duration of the treatment of light therapy. Therapy lasts up to 10 minutes. 

The color that is applied to the filters depends on the patient’s particular problem. As mentioned previously, blue lights are used to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Violet colors are also used for this purpose. The PNS controls homeostasis and allows our pupils to constrict. 

Additionally, colors that are related to blue can improve abilities to focus on near-vision tasks. This occurs due to a reduction in the production of adrenaline, stress, and anxiety. 

On the other hand, orange, yellow, and red colors stimulate the nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response, as well as our pupil’s ability to dilate. This nervous system is known as the sympathetic nervous system or SNS. 

To treat lazy eyes, red and orange colors are often used. Inward-turned eyes, on the other hand, are usually treated with green and yellow colors. 

There has been a lot of research conducted on the effects and benefits of syntonic phototherapy. Research done by Robert Michael Kaplan, Jacob Liberman, and Steven Ingersol has provided evidence of the short-term effects that syntonic treatment can have on patients, particularly children. The research showed significant improvements in visual skills, memory, mood, behavior, peripheral vision, academic achievement, and overall general performance. 

These researchers were also able to confirm that children who have issues with learning often have decreased sensitivity in their peripheral vision. It has been noted that during and after phototherapy, an improvement was acknowledged in these children regarding both their peripheral vision and visual skills. 

Furthermore, significant improvements were also noted in all three studies relating to children who underwent syntonic phototherapy in comparison to subjects of the same age and levels of academic success who did not receive the same therapy. Those who did not undergo syntonic phototherapy were subjected to white light, had optometric vision therapy, or received both optometric vision therapy and tutoring academically. It was revealed that these students had little to no improvement concerning their peripheral vision, nor did they have any change in their symptoms or performance, unlike the children who were treated with phototherapy. 

Ingersol’s research revealed that groups of individuals who received academic tutoring, syntonic, and visual therapy outperformed students who received the same treatment without the syntonic therapy. 

There are many benefits included in syntonic phototherapy. For vision-related benefits, the best results come when this therapy is coupled with other vision therapies, eyeglasses, or optical aids. 

Benefits can include: 

  • Visual acuity and contrast that have improved
  • An improvement in visual attention 
  • Improved energy levels 
  • Sleep and digestion improvement 
  • Improved relaxation 
  • A decrease in eye strain 
  • A decrease in sensitivity to light and allergies
  • An improved appetite
  • A decrease in sugar, caffeine, and smoking cravings 
  • Improvement of reproductive functions 
  • Weight loss 

Not every patient will respond the same way to treatment. However, most patients are surprised by how effective the treatment is and are pleased they went through with it. 

Syntonic photography is more effective when other therapies are also involved, such as vision therapy, prisms, and specialty lenses. If you’re curious about whether syntonic phototherapy can benefit you, consult with your optometrist. 

Circulation, immune function, and cell respiration have all been shown to be affected when photosensitive elements have been stimulated. Depending on the frequency and dosage involved, the light from syntonic phototherapy can help alter mitochondrial metabolism. As a result, nonvisual eye-brain pathways can be triggered, thus leading to improved sleep patterns in those with Alzheimer’s and some others. 

More than 1,200 optometrists practice syntonic phototherapy today in both the US and in other countries throughout the world. Other practitioners of syntonic phototherapy include ophthalmologists and psychologists. 

Syntonic phototherapy has paved the way for developing other color therapies worldwide. Those practicing this form of therapy have managed to help thousands of patients, both children and adults alike, who have dealt with disabilities concerning learning, attention, and reading, as well as head trauma and stroke, retinal diseases, headaches, and more.