1. What is it?
Syntonic Phototherapy, also known as Optometric Phototherapy, is today’s most advanced branch of clinical science in light therapy. It is the use of the visible light frequencies or colors, through the eyes, to improve visual and other systemic functions. Syntonic Phototherapy (www.collegeofsyntonicoptometry.com) has been used clinically for over 90 years in the field of Developmental Optometry and is proven to be both safe and effective with a high rate of success.
2. How does it work?
Not all retinal neurons in the eyes serve just vision. Some connect the retina directly to other non-visual brain centers including the endocrine glands such as the hypothalamus and pineal gland. These photoregulated (light regulated) glands significantly influence electrical, chemical, and hormonal balance in our bodies which affect many body functions including vision. The goal of Syntonic Phototherapy then is to help treat eye and other conditions by helping balance the autonomic nervous system which these centers help regulate. Years of clinical application and research have demonstrated and proven that certain selected light frequencies (color) applied by the way of the eyes to these centers can produce beneficial results in the body including improved visual, motor, and emotional skills.
3. History of Syntonics
Syntonics Phototherapy has been used clinically for over 90 years in the field of Optometry. Dr. Harry Riley Spitler developed the clinical science which he called Syntonics (from “syntony,” to bring into balance) in the 1920’s. His research and clinical studies validated the profound effect that light has on human function and health. Dr. Harry Wohlfarth, an authority on the effects of color on classroom performance, has found that lighting and colors chosen for walls and carpets in classrooms are a major influence on attendance, performance, and academic achievement. Similarly, Dr. John Ott has found that lighting which more closely simulates natural sunlight has a positive effect on health, behavior, and performance while typical artificial fluorescent light sources cause visual discomfort and lowered performance. In 1985, psychiatry discovered light therapy. In medical clinics throughout the country and around the world, many individuals are now receiving exposures to full spectrum light as treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Light therapy has also commanded respect in the medical community as its benefits are investigated in the treatment of jet lag, PMS, sleep disorders, and conditions related to the body’s daily rhythms. Exposure to certain colors has also been found to affect behavior, mood, and physiological functions. In 1991, Dr. Jack Liberman’s book, “Light: Medicine of the Future” further expanded our understanding of light and color. It describes the roles of light and color in creating a new experience of physical and emotional health. Ocular, as well as general phototherapy, has become one of the fastest growing areas in clinical research and health care. Interest in phototherapy has increased tremendously in recent years. Since 1992, more than 5000 articles have been published in the medical literature describing the effects of light on the brain and visual system with over 1100 of them involving the use of color. Like Dr. Lieberman’s book title states, Light is the medicine of the future!
4. What can Syntonics help with?
• Blurred or unstable vision
• Eyestrain or fatigue
• Strabismus (eye-turn)
• Amblyopia (lazy eye)
• Double vision
• Poor depth perception
• Reduced peripheral vision
• Light sensitivity or glare
• Dry eyes
Visual Related Conditions
• Short attention span
• Reduced concentration
• Poor memory
• Reading problems
• Impaired driving ability
• Poor coordination or balance
• Motion sickness/Vertigo
School, Work and/or Sports Performance
• Reduced academic achievement
• Uneven work performance
• Inconsistent athletic accomplishment
History of Stress or Trauma
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• Mental or emotional trauma
• Chronic illness
5. Does it help with learning?
Studies have shown that many children and adults with learning problems have
reduced functional visual fields. This causes them to have to read as if reading
through a straw. This causes reading to be much harder, leading to reduced
comprehension and avoidance of reading. Short-term light therapy has been shown
to help improve these visual fields and thus, improved reading and other academics.
6. Evaluation and Treatment
Evaluation: A Syntonic Phototherapy Program begins with a thorough history,
followed by a thorough developmental vision examination. This examination
includes assessing visual tracking, binocular eye coordination, visual perception
and motor performance, pupillary reaction to light, and perceptual color fields. This
perceptual (or functional) visual field is much different than the medical screening
field for glaucoma and determines a patient’s useable field for perception of motion,
and response to different colors at nearpoint. From these findings, an individualized
treatment program that may include the use of specialized tints (Colorimetry), vision
therapy, and Optometric Phototherapy is recommended.
Treatment: The most common treatment protocol for Optometric Phototherapy (light
therapy) involves (20) 20 minute sessions done 4-5 times per week. The patient
simply relaxes in a dark room, looking toward a colored light source. During this
time, the patient is asked to deep breath, and listen to very relaxing music or in the
case of children, the parent’s are asked to read fun stories to them to keep them
engaged and alert.
Because of the non-invasiveness and simple nature of this therapy, it can be done
on nearly any age or attention level of a child, which is sometimes impossible
with other therapies. Light therapy is typically an adjunct to other vision therapy,
however, occasionally is the only therapy needed. When combined with the
traditional vision therapy and academic therapy, the results are always better than
each by themselves (as seen in research).
After 20 sessions, the patient is re-evaluated for history and the original areas of
concern found in the entering evaluation. In some cases where there is progress but
not as much as would like, a second or third round of therapy will be recommended
a month or so apart.
7. Will I need Phototherapy again or have to keep doing it independently?
Typically not, but there are cases where repeat therapy is needed especially in
cases where patient continue to be in environments that can throw them back out
of balance again (i.e., Seasonal Mood Disorder or poor unchangeable working
The cost varies from patient to patient, as it is often a part of a whole program of a
vision treatment plan. However, if done entirely by itself, the light therapy is typically
9. Is it covered by insurance?
As part of the whole program of vision therapy, there are cases where PPO
insurances do help pay. As a stand alone program, it is less likely to be covered but
again varies depending upon your insurance carrier.