Monday, January 19, 2009

A Little Information About Syntonic Phototherapy

I received this question from a blog reader, Junip today:

I was wondering if I could ask a question about the vision work you pursued for your son (I followed all the blogs about that and the progress he made). The only optometrist using phototherapy anywhere within driving distance of us uses this machine for the home part:

I wondered if it is the same as what you used for your son. If so, do you think a five year old could successfully use the system. We're pursuing vision therapy exercises closer to home but they are quite difficult for him and I'm interested in perhaps going this route as well. I'd love any experiences you could share.

My son did not use the system that was mentioned by Junip. My older son had syntonic phototherapy. He basically looked at a colored light for ten minutes, then switched to a second color and looked at it for ten minutes (in the dark), then a transition time in the dark then to low light then up to normal light. He did no eye exercises related to looking at light, no exercises in a normal lit room nor exercises while looking at a computer screen.

I have not researched Syntonic Phototherapy in detail but my basic understanding is the color is stimulating certain centers of the brain that affect the neurological system.

Visual processing disorders are neurological (brain) issues not "biology of the eyeball" issues from my understanding after hours of reading about the condition. In other words since the problem is in the neurological system, doing physical movements with the eye to move the eye muscle around may not be the only effective treatment. If the neurological system is stimulated just by being stimulated with a colored light, then moving the eye around physically during 'eye exercises' may be unnecessary. I am NOT making a claim that eye exercises do not work, but just considering that perhaps there are two ways to fix this problem, one being eye exercises with physical movements and another being syntonic phototherapy, it is possible to have two effective ways. And for my son I had a choice to seek a provider who may require $200 or $300 per week of eye exercise therapy for six months, a year or two years, or a provider who was prescribing a $60 rental fee with the first step being 21 days of home therapy (that happened to work) if that didn't work he was going to try a second 21 days of home therapy. I figured I'd go for the easiest treatment, the cheapest treatment and the fastest treatment--if that did NOT work then we had the long-time regular 'eye exercise' vision therapy route that we could have embarked upon. Add to it that I heard three stories from people living near me of thousands of dollars spent out of pocket with little or no results from in-doctor-office eye vision therapy exercise treatment. Gee, which should I choose? Let me ponder my options...I chose the syntonic phototherapy for the first try. (I realize not all people may have this option open to them if they don't have a provider that uses that form of treatment. I am just telling MY story here on my blog.)

My son also needed a mild prescription for farsightedness. Additionally he has a prism in the lens (you can't see it) that does something, what I do not know. I have tried the glasses on and I can't detect that anything looks different.

All I know is that 21 days of that light therapy, at home, in a row, worked. We rented the unit from the Behavioral Optometrist. What it basically was, was a can light kind of like a track lighting system piece like you would have inside a room in your house. It was mounted on a simple platform so it could stand up. Then there was a piece of frosted glass inside the can to cover up the lightbulb. Then there was stained glass in certain colors cut in a round shape to fit inside the can and so the light that is seen is a color. It was like staring at a circle of red. The glass was dense so it is not like a beam of red light was shining out of the unit.

The doctor prescribes the exact shade of color to be used on the child based on their diagnosis.

Here is one link about Syntonic Phototherapy.

Here is a quote from the site from this page:

Patients are diagnosed by symptoms, vision evaluation, visual/motor performance and peripheral vision sensitivity. They may have blurred vision, a crossed or lazy eye, double vision or poor academic achievement. If appropriate, they are treated by way of their eyes with selected visible light seen as colors.

Not all retinal (light-sensitive) nerves in the eyes serve vision. Some connect the retina directly to non-visual brain centers such as the hypothalamus and pineal gland. These centers influence electrical, chemical and hormonal balances which affect all body functions including vision. Years of clinical application and research have demonstrated that certain selected light frequencies (colors), applied by way of the eyes to these centers, can produce beneficial results in the body.

Controlled clinical studies by Dr. Robert Michael Kaplan and Dr. Jacob Liberman proved that the usual result of this relatively short-term treatment is improvement in visual skills, peripheral vision, memory, behavior, mood, general performance and academic achievement.

They confirmed that large numbers of children with learning problems have a reduction in the sensitivity of their peripheral vision. During and after phototherapy they demonstrated improvement of peripheral vision and visual skills. Control subjects who did not receive therapy showed no improvement in their peripheral vision, symptoms or performance.

In 1985 psychiatry discovered light therapy. In medical clinics throughout this country and around the world, many individuals are now receiving exposures to bright light as treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Syntonics can be used as the primary treatment or to support other therapies to aid in the remediation of strabismus, amblyopia, accommodative/convergence problems, asthenopia, ametropia, visual attention deficit, vision-related learning and behavior problems, and visual field constrictions associated with visual stress, brain injury, degenerative ocular disorders, and emotional trauma.

My son did have narrowed fields of vision as part of his diagnosis. He had 'convergence insufficiency'. The doctor explained that when I look at a line of text to read it I might take in 6 or 7 words in focus to read across smoothly. But my son was only able to see 2 or 3 words at a time. So the eyes jerk and stop, jerk and stop, and the reading is in spurts not smoothly flowing across the line of text. Some people with these problems also read orally like robots as they can't read ahead to see what is next, if a comma is next, a question mark or when punctuation is coming.

The use of UV light to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder is accepted now although in the 1980s it was still being studied and was doubted by some medical professionals. Costco even sells the units for SAD now!

Frankly no matter how odd this treatment sounds, I was willing to have my son try it because I knew his friend had success with it, it was cheap (rental $60 for six weeks which we used it only three weeks). Also the doctor's fees were covered by insurance and were low compared to some other doctors that were making their patients (acquaintences of mine) pay cash out of pocket (one charged $900 for the consult, testing and the results giving office visit, over two visits). I figured if this did not work we could try the three times per week visual exercises which are so expensive and seem to go on for years with some kids without results (per the parents who tell me their stories).

While my son looked at the light, a small amount of light was coming out the back of the unit. I sat in the room with him and read aloud from a book. I changed the lenses as they got hot. It was a simple treatment and I am so happy that it worked.

Related Topic: The book "Reading by the Colors: Overcoming Dyslexia and Other Reading Disabilities Through the Irlen Method" by Helen Irlen discusses the use of color to help some people with reading challenges. One interesting thing in the book is there are good explanations of what some readers see when they look at printed words on a page. That was eye opening to me. In my son's case the use of a transparent color sheet over the paper did not help. This method is said to help 1 in 5 who are suffering with Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. This was also mentioned in a lecture by Temple Grandin, as some people on the Autism Spectrum also have visual processing disorders and sensory issues that sometimes are corrected by using Irlen methods, one other being the wearing of nonprescription eyeglasses with a tinted colored lens which is helpful when working with computers. I have not read this book in its entirety and do not know if syntonic phototherapy is mentioned, it is NOT in the index.

Reading by the Colors, revised edition:

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Lynelle said...

How did you find a way to rent the unit? My behavioral optometrist has in-office sessions for $70/session x 20 = $1400. If you have a lead on renting one, I would love to know. I live in Austin, TX.

christinemm said...

Hi Lynelle, Our behavioral optometrist rents the units to his patients.

A friend of mine found a unit online, different than the one our doctor uses, and she almost bought it. I think it was $300. I am goint to see if I can get in touch with her about the site she was going to buy it from.

I refused to go to a doctor who does all in-office therapies as I feel it was more expensive then we could afford. The price you are being quoted is outrageous to MY budget. I think all total we have spent only about $250 out of pocket for my son's 2 years of diagnosis, treatment and therapy, and we live in a very expensive place: Fairfield County, Connecticut. Our medical insurance did pay some of the evaluation and doctor visit costs.

Serenity said...

My son's Behavioral Optometrist wants to rent us a machine costing $110/wk. Given that my son has a severe brain injury, she estimates he will need a minimum of 9 weeks (the average kid needs 5). I'd love to know if we could purchase one for less than $990!!

ChristineMM said...

Serenity, that seems really expensive to me. The machine I used was a homemade thing from Home Depot parts that I could have made with the addition of colored round stained glass pieces to place inside the track lighting fixture! I paid $60 a month to rent it. I don't know of a brand name for you to look up. Ask your Dr what the brand of the unit is and look it up, that's what I'd do.

ChristineMM said...

Hi Serenity, this one looks like what my son used and it comes with lenses for $330 all total - unit with lenses!

ChristineMM said...

...oops I mean $295

ChristineMM said...

...oops I mean $295

Unknown said...

Hi I am really interested in this but your link to isn't working? Is there another link? Thanks!

ChristineMM said...

The machine my son used was homemade by someone and rented from the behavioral optometrist.

All it was, was a track lighting fixture with a normal white bulb in it. Then a homemade clear glass piece was put in the track light on top of the bulb. Then a stained glass circle was put on top of that. Thus when it was turned on it shone red, orange, blue, teal, or whatever color the doctor prescribed.

This track was affixed to a base so it could stand up on a flat surface.

This is a fancy version which is sold as a red light therapy only.

ChristineMM said...

Here is a journal article about syntonic phototherapy in a journal for behavioral optometry.

ChristineMM said...

Update: neurofeedback therapy can also help with processing disorders.

to find a board certified neurofeedback therapist

I have some blog posts on neurofeedback...

Sansayan Chakma said...

It's wonderful reading about syntonic. I am planning to make one. The only thing I dont know is what color should I use on it. What color do they use for strabismic eyes? ANy help is appreciated.

ChristineMM said...

Hi Sansayan, The color used is very important, good or bad for each person. The doctor my son went to used custom made rounds of stained glass. I recognized the hand cutting and different glass colors from my mother's stained glass window hobby. A friend of mine's son did this more than my son did and he had major negative reactions to a tiny shift from a teal to a more yellowish shade of green. Different colors affect different areas. There are books on syntonicl therapy that may help you. I didn't want to get into fooling with my son's brain like that so I used the doctor. Too much syntonic can lead to insomnia, hyperactivitiy and other things so the number of minutes is important as well. I trusted that treatment to a doctor. Perhaps you should see an expert. Good luck.