Laser treatment is an emergent therapy for many conditions including neuropathy. It stimulates nerve cells and promotes regeneration, helping alleviate neuropathy symptoms.

There is much controversy around the use of low-level laser treatment for neuropathy, mainly because experts have an issue with differences in the application of the laser. More research, especially larger-scale studies, is necessary to determine the effectiveness of this laser type.

Other types, including deep-tissue laser techniques, have shown promising results for relieving diabetic neuropathy-related pain. A doctor will best be able to advise people on specific laser therapies that they are suitable for.

This article will explore the use of laser treatment for neuropathy, including a description of some laser types and some factors that influence the cost of this treatment type.

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Laser treatment can be effective for certain neuropathy types. Neuropathy refers to nerve damage. People can have different neuropathy symptoms depending on the affected nerves.

Experts cannot conclusively say that laser treatment is effective for all neuropathy types. This is likely due to a lot of variation in studies, including differences in how research has been conducted thus far. For example, differences in:

  • laser types used in studies
  • number of participants involved in the studies, making it difficult to generalize results
  • treatment duration
  • number of interventions

More research into using lasers for neuropathy treatment is necessary to determine the extent of their effectiveness.

That said, below are some examples of laser types that have shown some benefit in people with neuropathy:

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that leads to the following symptoms:

  • pain
  • tingling
  • numbness in a specific body part — such as the feet

Older research from a 2012 study, evaluated the use of low-level laser treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy in a group of 30 females and males. Low-level laser treatment works by stimulating changes in the nerve cells. One theory is that low-level lasers can increase blood circulation to smaller blood vessels supplying the nerves.

The researchers conclude that low-level laser therapy led to significant pain reduction, and is possibly beneficial for controlling diabetic nerve pain. However, results for this laser type are inconsistent.

Another 2019 study, evaluated the effect of deep-tissue laser therapy on 40 participants with diabetic neuropathy. This laser type also helps to stimulate and regenerate nerve cells. Deep-tissue laser penetrates deep into the body because of the increased laser wavelength. Lower-level laser has a slower wavelength and is more effective on the body’s surface.

Researchers conclude that deep tissue laser may benefit older people with painful diabetic neuropathy, with many experiencing a significant reduction in pain.

Learn more about peripheral neuropathy here.

Peripheral somatosensory neuropathy

Peripheral somatosensory neuropathy is a condition that affects how people experience sensations, such as pain and touch, anywhere in the body. This type of neuropathy occurs commonly in autistic people.

An older 2017 review evaluated 6 studies on low-level laser treatment on peripheral somatosensory neuropathy. The laser treatment durations ranged from 6 to 21 interventions across all studies. Also, participants were generally followed up by doctors between 0 and 6 months.

The laser treatment seemed to reduce the loss of function in damaged nerves. The researchers suggest that laser treatment can also improve sensory nerve cell function.

Optic neuropathy

Optic neuropathy is damage to the optic nerve in the eyes. Glaucoma is a type of optic neuropathy, and people with this condition tend to lose their vision slowly and have high pressure in their eyes. Doctors usually treat glaucoma with medicated eye drops and laser therapy.

Laser trabeculoplasty and laser transscleral cyclophotocoagulation are two techniques that help lower the pressure in the eye.

Researchers suggest that a micropulse laser may be an alternative to traditional laser therapy for glaucoma. A 2020 study compared micropulse laser trabeculoplasty with traditional laser trabeculoplasty. The evidence suggests that the effectiveness of both treatments is similar. However, micropulse lasers tend to have fewer side effects.

This means that micropulse laser treatment may benefit people who cannot tolerate spikes in eye pressure that can occur with traditional lasers.

Several laser treatments for neuropathy are available. For example, in one study examining laser treatment for peripheral somatosensory neuropathy, the researchers used 3 types of laser treatments, including:

  • diode lasers
  • gallium aluminum arsenide laser therapy
  • helium-neon laser

Different lasers can have different therapeutic effects — for example, some may help manage pain. Researchers suggest that the differences in their benefits are because of the different wavelengths of the lasers. A laser’s wavelength describes the pattern of how the light beam travels through the air.

For example, gallium aluminum arsenide lasers have short wavelengths and the beams can penetrate body tissue well. This helps stimulate cells in the body to produce the desired clinical effect. Clinical effects may include:

  • increased blood flow and removal of waste products in the area
  • increased nerve cell stimulation
  • a lower pain threshold in nerves that signal pain

Other important differences between lasers type exist. A doctor will generally review and explain these to someone wishing to undergo laser therapy for neuropathy.

Typically, costs can vary. Some factors that influence the cost of laser treatment include:

  • the person administering the treatment
  • the laser type
  • how many treatment interventions or sessions are necessary
  • whether the treatment is covered by Medicare

To find out if Medicare covers laser treatment for neuropathy, check with a Medicare Administrative Contractor.

At-home treatments

It is best to first speak with a doctor before trying any new treatments to ensure they are safe. Any laser device used on the skin should be FDA-approved.

Laser treatment is a new way of treating neuropathy. Some experts claim low-level laser treatment may be useful for diabetic-related neuropathy — but results have been inconsistent. That said, deep tissue laser therapy has shown to be a promising treatment option for older people with type 2 diabetes.

However, lasers may not be effective for all neuropathy types. Further research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of different lasers for neuropathy treatment.

A healthcare professional can best advise whether someone is a suitable laser candidate. Costs can vary by laser type, administration, and the number of sessions for best results.