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Red Light Therapy For Erectile Dysfunction: Can It Help Cure ED?

Last Reviewed on May 1, 2024

Explore the potential of red light therapy for erectile dysfunction. Learn about its mechanisms, benefits, and how it could enhance male sexual wellness.

Red light therapy is an extremely promising asset in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED), with studies indicating it may be a non-invasive and alternative approach to traditional treatments. But, that doesn’t mean that red light therapy alone can treat ED. Instead, it may be most effective when combined with other treatments like oral medications and therapy.

Using up-to-date research, we’re going to dive into this topic and explore how red light therapy can be used to minimize the symptoms of ED and its potential benefits for male sexual function and health.

So, let’s start with the basics – can red light therapy be used to help with erectile dysfunction?

Does Red Light Therapy Help ED?

In short, yes. Red light therapy (RLT) is being looked at as a possible non-invasive, alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Red and near-infrared light are known to improve blood flow through vasodilation, which refers to the process of widening blood vessels. This is done by stimulating the release of nitric oxide (NO) with red light [1]. In turn, NO helps dilate blood vessels, which increases blood flow across the treatment area.

NO plays an important role in penile erections by relaxing smooth muscles and subsequently increasing blood flow. Since improved blood flow is necessary to achieve and maintain erections, red light has been suggested as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction when used alongside a light-controlled NO donor known as NORD-1 [2].

In a 2023 study published in The World Journal of Men’s Health, researchers tested the efficacy of red light therapy on neurogenic erectile dysfunction in rats. The study showed that red light therapy improved erectile function and penile circulation [3], which helps to support the hypothesis that RLT could be used as an efficient treatment.

Additionally, red light therapy could potentially influence hormonal factors that are associated with erectile dysfunction. One of these key hormones is testosterone, which is related to libido and erectile function and may be positively impacted by red light therapy [4].

It’s important to remember that, while red light therapy may be beneficial for patients suffering from ED, it’s a supplementary therapy in treating erectile dysfunction rather than a standalone treatment. Additionally, there are safety regulations to be considered, like avoiding applying heat to the genital area during red light therapy.

Man holding ripe banana as a proxy for illustrating erectile dysfunction

How Erections Work

Before we dive into how red light therapy works, it’s important to first understand how erections work.

As you know, erections happen when blood rushes to the penis, causing it to become erect and enlarged. This is because the penis includes two structures known as the corpora cavernosa. These are two sponge-like regions of erectile tissue that run along its entire length.

During sexual arousal, the blood vessels leading to the penis dilate, increasing blood flow into this area. At the same time, the veins that drain blood from the penis become constricted. This combination of increased inflow and decreased outflow of blood causes the erectile tissue in the corpora cavernosa to swell. This is what causes the penis to become stiff.

In the case of erectile dysfunction, there may be a disconnect in the above process. For instance, if the vessels aren’t dilated enough, not enough blood may flow into the erectile tissue, making it difficult to get an erection.

Male reproductive anatomy diagram, flaccid and erect penis comparison

How Does Red Light Therapy Work For ED?

Red light therapy has several potentially beneficial effects for individuals who want to treat erectile dysfunction without using invasive treatments. However, it’s important to remember that RLT works on the physiological factors that affect erectile function and may not have the same results in every patient.

For instance, RLT will not provide significant improvement if performance anxiety is the primary cause of the ED.

While these physiological factors can also be attributed to various health benefits, they have specific roles and applications in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including:

Stimulates Nitric Oxide Release

Remember our earlier discussion on how increased blood flow to the penis is important for achieving an erection?

Nitric oxide (NO) is a key molecule in the process of vasodilation and ensuring blood can flow into the erectile tissue of the penis.

Red light (670 nm) has been shown in numerous studies to increase NO levels, with one animal study finding these effects to last at least 30 minutes after treatment with red wavelengths [1, 5].

Vasodilation and nitric oxide usually go hand-in-hand when it comes to healthier vascular function within the penis. Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths to penetrate the skin around the groin and increases the release of NO. When this happens, more blood can flow freely to the area, which can aid in stronger, longer-lasting erections.

Improves Blood Flow

To have healthy erections, it’s crucial that blood flows efficiently to the penis. Red light therapy can help with this by making blood vessels wider through vasodilation. It can also improve your sexual health as a whole.

But, how exactly does this work to treat erectile dysfunction?

When the blood vessels are widened, they allow a higher volume of blood to flow through them at any given time. In the context of erectile function, this boost in blood circulation to the penile region is one of the most important elements for achieving a satisfactory erection.

Red light therapy acts as a catalyst for vasodilation and can improve circulation throughout the human body. However, focusing the treatment on vessels around the genital area creates a more efficient physiological environment for an erection to occur.

The increase in circulation in and around the penis not only helps in achieving an erection but also improves your overall vascular health, which is essential for maintaining your sexual well-being.

Blood vessels normal, vasodilation, and vasoconstriction comparison

Boosts Cellular Energy

When red light therapy is used to boost cellular energy, it has a significant impact on the Leydig cells. These Leydig cells, which are located in the testicles, are important players in producing testosterone and improving your overall testicular health [6].

Leydig cells function at their best when they receive enough energy to carry out their testosterone-producing tasks. Red light therapy influences cellular function and can benefit Leydig cells in particular by giving them the ‘energy boost’ they need. After they receive this energy boost, these cells can then work more efficiently, which can potentially lead to healthier testosterone levels.

In simpler terms, red light therapy can support Leydig cells and foster an environment for more effective testosterone generation. This helps to emphasize how important RLT’s potential is as a non-invasive method for positively influencing male reproductive health by impacting these essential hormones.

Increases Testosterone

Also known as the ‘male hormone’, testosterone plays a critical role within the male body. Typically, testosterone contributes to things like muscle growth, the development of body hair, and the deepening of the voice during male puberty.

But, testosterone does more than change your outward appearance. It can also affect your mood, energy, and – most importantly, in this case – your sex drive. Although it’s one of the less common causes, lower testosterone levels may make it more difficult to achieve an erection and may lead to ED [7]. However, it’s important to remember that it’s usually not the only cause.

When it comes to the sexual health of biological males, testosterone is a key player and can influence both libido and erectile functioning. According to an animal study, red light therapy may have a significant positive impact on testosterone levels [4], potentially contributing to a better hormonal balance and healthier erections.

Thanks to these results, it can be deduced that RLT can be used as a safe and potentially effective way to treat ED that is caused by low testosterone levels. Just be sure to consult a medical health professional before using this therapy to treat your erectile dysfunction at home. You may need to use it in conjunction with something like testosterone replacement therapy to improve the symptoms of ED.

Muscular torso with testosterone molecule overlay

How To Use Red Light Therapy For ED

Using red light therapy for erectile dysfunction is a relatively straightforward process. However, it’s important to remember that you should always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment – including RLT.

Once you’ve gotten the green light from a medical professional, you can use red light therapy by following these simple steps:

1. Choose a red light therapy device: You’ll want to find a red light therapy device that has been designed for home use. It should also be appropriate for the results you’re hoping to achieve. For example, a panel may be more effective than a handheld wand. Ideally, you’ll want to pick one that suits the size of the treatment area.

2. Check the device specifications: It’s recommended to familiarize yourself with the specifications of your new RLT device since this can affect your results. Two of the most important features to look at include the wavelength (look for a device that uses 670 nm LED lights)and the power density. These factors help to ensure optimal safety and efficiency.

3. Identify the treatment area: With the help of a medical professional, you can determine the ideal treatment area. This usually includes the genital region or perineum, which is the soft skin between the anus and testicles. You can also consult your doctor about whether your device is safe for use in these sensitive areas.

4. Follow the recommended treatment time: Pay attention to the treatment time, which may range from 5 to 20 minutes per session. Remember that it’s essential to be consistent with your treatment schedule. Otherwise, you may not achieve the desired results.

5. Keep the device at an appropriate distance: Make sure to position your RLT device a good distance away from your skin. This can help the red light to penetrate the skin safely without causing harm, especially if you’re using near-infrared light.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about red light and erectile dysfunction.

How Long Does It Take To See Results With Red Light Therapy For ED?

How long it takes to see results with red light therapy depends on each individual case. While some people may see improvements in their condition after just a couple of weeks of consistent treatments, others may see results sooner – or later.

To get the best results, you should ideally undergo regular treatments and stay consistent with your recommended schedule. Your doctor may suggest a treatment schedule based on the severity of your condition as well. For example, you may need to do a 10-minute session 2-3 times a week to see results.

Can I Use A Red Light Therapy Device For ED At Home?

Yes, you can use a red light therapy device at home to treat ED. This may be a more convenient way to use this therapy, since treatments offered at clinics and health centers may be costly and time-consuming.

However, it’s important to choose the right device, follow the recommended treatment time and frequency, and check the specifications of the device before starting the therapy. You can also consult with your doctor to get recommendations for suitable devices.

Man holding light therapy device over groin

What Else Can Red Light Therapy Be Used For Besides Treating ED?

Red light therapy can be used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions, reducing inflammation, providing pain relief, and more. RLT (including LED and laser therapy) has been extensively researched and is still being studied for its efficacy in various health applications. While these studies are ongoing, it has shown promise for a number of benefits.

Final Thoughts

If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, know you’re not alone. ED affects millions of men around the globe, with 30 million of them residing just in the United States [8].

Luckily, red light therapy shows a lot of promise as a supplementary treatment for erectile dysfunction, particularly thanks to its effect on circulation, hormonal balance, and cellular function. Although more research is needed on this treatment, it could be incredibly effective alongside existing traditional treatments.

If you have any questions or experiences with RLT for ED that you’d like to share, be sure to leave a comment below.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1011134421000919
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35491112/
  3. https://wjmh.org/DOIx.php?id=10.5534/wjmh.220146
  4. https://www.biomedres.info/biomedical-research/the-effects-of-low-level-laser-therapy-lllt-on-the-testis-in-elevatingserum-testosterone-level-in-rats.pdf
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2022.880158/full
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/leydig-cell
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476110/
  8. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
Anne, Founder of Therapeutic Beams

Anne Linde

Since using it to clear up her acne in college, Anne has been an avid user and fan of all things light therapy. She now primarily uses red light therapy for its anti-aging benefits. Anne's mission is to make the science behind red light therapy easy to understand and accessible, so anyone can use it to take control of their health and wellbeing.

John Ni, BSc.

John, a graduate of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, serves as a respected scientific reviewer at TherapeuticBeams.com. His expertise extends across various domains, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and dermatology. He contributes to publications like Royal Society of Chemistry, Drug Topics, and Practical Dermatology.

John Ni, Content Editor & Scientific Review

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