Pulsed Light Treatment of Hypothyroidism
This article is going to take a look at some data on pulsed low level laser therapy in the treatment of autoimmune hypothyroidism. This study shows two techniques of application, one which affects the autoimmune processes and another which has a stronger effect on thyroid hormones and TSH. You can see the previous articles in this series via the “Content Guide” button at the top of the page. Click here for terms and metrics.
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The Pulsed Laser Treatment Of Hypothyroidism And Heart Disease
Low level laser therapy refers to a treatment involving relatively low powered light in the red or near infrared range. It can also refer pulsed light with a much higher peak power output. So instead of a constant power output in the range of 50 to 250 mW you would have something like a 5,000 mW beam which is turned on and off (pulsed) many times per second. Things this allows for deeper penetration while dissipating the heat occurring from the high power output. (There are other reasons for pulsing which I won’t go into.)
In this article I’m going to look at some human data contained in a 2010 dissertation published in Russia. This dissertation contains data on the effect of pulsed Low level laser therapy on thyroid hormones, TSH, thyroid structure and antibodies.
Hypothyroidism was assessed in part by symptoms including: discomfort of the thyroid, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, swelling of the face and eyelids, weight gain, constipation, irritability, memory loss, low temperature, and fatigue. The paper provides an interesting analysis of these symptoms correlated with blood tests of thyroid hormones and TSH.
The participants also had ultrasounds and cytological (cell) examinations. Blood tests included TSH, free T3, free T4, thyroglobulin, anti-TPO, TGab, and markers of cellular immunity (T, B lymphocytes, subpopulations of T helpers and T suppressors).
The study tested two treatments. Patients were treated with one or the other.
Vasal Tympanic Membrane
The first treatment was along the vasal tympanic membrane, or the eardrum. This was replicating a method developed in russia a decade earlier for use in rheumatoid arthritis. A number of the Russian and Ukrainian studies on light therapy treatment of hypothyroidism describe using light on areas other than the thyroid gland in order to correct autoimmune processes.
This particular method uses a fibre optic – transmitting the light from the laser device to the eardrum. The peak power output was 2 watts (2,000mW), far higher than the power used in non-pulsed studies (50-70mW). The beam wavelength was 890 nm, invisible – near infrared A (NIRA).
The pulse frequency was 3000 Hz. The duty cycle is not given, duty cycle is the percentage of time spent in the light-on stage versus light-off stage. I’ve read that where duty cycle is not given it can be assumed as 50-50. Treatment time was three minutes on each ear for 10 days.
Thyroid – Thymus – Clavicle
The second treatment included irradiation of the thyroid gland itself. This treatment used the same 890 nm laser device with the same 3000 Hz pulse rate. The peak power in this treatment was 5 W (5,000mW).
The treatment time here was 64 seconds on each lobe of the thyroid, 64 seconds above the thymus gland and 32 seconds on the blood vessels of the supraclavicular fossa (region of the trapezius just above the clavicle).
This treatment was repeated for 10 days. The study does not say that treatments were conducted on consecutive days but it also doesn’t give any information on days between treatment, (my assumption is that it is 10 consecutive treatments).
20 men and 101 women with mean age of about 49 years were enrolled into the studies. All patients had a clinical diagnosis of autoimmune thyroiditis which was confirmed by a cytological study. Hyperthyroid people were excluded. The study included people who had normal levels of thyroid hormones and clinically low levels of thyroid hormones. In both cases with active autoimmunity.
The study reports that most of the symptomatic complaints were eradicated in people who began the study with normal levels of thyroid hormones (euthyroid). This was the case with either treatment method.
The paper uses it own rating system for symptoms of hypothyroidism. Lower scores are better. For euthyroid patients the ear irradiation treatment brought scores from 7.3 to 3.5. For the thyroid focused treatment method average scores went from 6.0 to 2.9.
In patients with clinical hypothyroidism the eardrum focused treatment brought scores from 10.3 down to 4.8. The thyroid focused treatment brought the average scores of hypothyroid participants from 7.7 to 3.9.
The patients who received treatment to the thyroid gland reported less discomfort after treatment than those receiving the other treatment. That is to say the thyroid focused treatment reduced discomfort (not that treatment to the eardrum caused discomfort). Another significant difference was that the laser irradiation of the eardrum led to a decrease in weight gain over the thyroid focused treatment.
FT3 – FT4 – TSH
Both experimental procedures lowered TSH and increased Free T3 and Free T4. This allowed some participants to lower the amount of thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The improvements in hormones and TSH were much more pronounced with the thyroid focused treatment.
The greatest improvement in thyroid hormones were seen in people who were hypothyroid and had the treatment directed to the thyroid gland. In this group – T4 went from about 11 to 13. T3 went from 1.6 to 2.7 and TSH dropped from 5.2 to 4.1. These results are not as strong as some others have reported with different methods.
The study describes changes in TSH/hormones in other groups included in the study as “unreliable”. 14 hypothyroid patients reduced their dose of T4 by 25 to 50 µg. 31 hypothyroid patients received treatment and did not lower their dose of T4. The paper remarks that this was more due to the ineffectiveness of ear focused treatment in shifting hormones and TSH.
Neither therapy changed the number of white blood cells significantly though there was a positive change in the immune -related T-cell activity from both treatments. An increase in suppressor activity of T lymphocytes and a concurrent decrease in the relative number of T-helpers was observed from both laser treatments. These improvements continued two months post-treatment. Follow-up treatments and tests led the authors to conclude that to correct autoimmunity most patients would require three courses of laser therapy. A number of studies from Russia and Ukraine estimate 3-4 courses of LLLT per year would be necessary for maintenance. 10 to 15% of the people in each group had normal thyroid function after the initial treatment and did not require any further treatment.
68% of the patients who had treatment on the eardrum had reduced thyroid size after treatment. One person had a node which disappeared and 24% of people with nodes showed a decrease after therapy. Both treatments resulted in reduced autoimmune inflammation and lymphoid infiltration of the thyroid gland.
Differences In Treatment Outcomes
Improvements in markers of autoimmunity were more pronounced using the treatment to the eardrum, whereas treatments which included the thyroid gland directly produce more benefit on thyroid hormones and TSH. Greater improvement in markers of autoimmunity were seen in people with a shorter disease duration. Treatment to the eardrum produced greater improvements in ultrasound assessment.
By the measures set out in the study the effectiveness of these treatments varied from 75% to 96%. 75% of patients with hypothyroidism received effective treatment from radiation to the thyroid gland. The treatment was effective in 86% of people who were euthyroid and received treatment to the thyroid gland.
Treatment to the eardrum was effective in 88% of euthyroid participants, and finally, 96% of euthyroid participants saw effective benefit from treatment to the eardrum.
A significant decrease was seen in TPO and ATTG from either treatment. TPO antibodies decreased an average of about 35% in all groups. Eardrum irradiation showed a further decrease in thyroglobulin over thyroid gland irradiation. It seems that using both of these experimental treatments together could be more beneficial than using either alone.
Comparison To Other Methods
These are probably not the most effective treatment procedures I’ve looked at so far, though it would be interesting to see them used together. Pulsed laser devices with these settings are relatively expensive too, but this study shows some interesting effects from eardrum irradiation and tracks a lot of the more important variables. In a control group with normal thyroid labs from this study there were no significant alterations in any markers from either treatment.
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I have the RLM 670 device which I use regularly (along with my 808nm laser and golite blu). I must do some reviews of those in the new year….