Acupuncture for Eye Disease

Macular Degeneration

While acupuncture is known to help chronic pain, many are surprised to find that you can get acupuncture for eye disease to help with vision issues such as Macular Degeneration. Macular Degeneration is a disease that occurs in the back of the eye which occurs most commonly in people aged 60 or older. The disease affects an area of the eye known as the macula. The macula takes detailed information from the center of our visual field and allows us to read, drive a car, perceive color and detail, and recognize faces. When the cells in the macula deteriorate the images transferred to the brain can not be received correctly. Symptoms of Macular Degeneration can range from difficulty to see in low light, and wavy or blurred vision. At the extreme end of the disease, central vision can be lost. Macular Degeneration is diagnosed by the presence of drusen, which are deposits of fats, proteins, and cellular debris. There are things people can do to slow the progression of the disease, which include: not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining recommended body weight, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, wearing sunglasses when outside, and eating a diet which includes the following: dark green leafy vegetables, fruit such as blueberries/raspberries, and salmon. Limiting or eliminating alcohol, reducing stress, and getting good quality sleep will also be beneficial.

So, how does acupuncture help Macular Degeneration? Acupuncture, in general, works by stimulating the brain and spinal cord to cause a release of various compounds our body produces to help with inflammation and tissue repair. Additionally, acupuncture helps increase circulation within the body and specifically the retina. There are specific acupuncture points which stimulate the part of the brain that influences the eye. These points often can signal dormant rods and cones to become active again. However, rods and cones which are dead will not be improved by acupuncture. Rods are responsible for vision in low light and help with peripheral vision. Cones are responsible for color vision and detail of images.

It is important to know that none of the acupuncture points are in the eyes but around or near the eyes. Acupuncturists who treat eye diseases have had specialized training in Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) ophthalmology.

Patients receiving acupuncture for eye diseases MUST currently be under the care of an eye physician. Prior to starting treatment, it is highly recommended that you have a OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) exam within a month before treatment starts, and to have a follow-up OCT exam at the conclusion of the initial treatment protocol. When you first come to the office for an evaluation for Macular Degeneration, you will complete a questionnaire about your health. This is used by your acupuncturist to make a diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A treatment plan will be designed specifically for you which addresses health issues which might be contributing to your eye health. The initial treatment is a series of 20 treatments, occurring over a 2-3 week period. If there is improvement in vision, you will continue with additional treatments until your vision is stabilized. You will require periodic treatments thereafter to maintain your improvement. There are 3 possible outcomes from acupuncture treatment for eye disease:

  1. There is improvement in your OCT exam and you have improved vision
  2. There is improvement/stabilization of eye disease based on the OCT exam, but no improvement in vision, or
  3. There is no improvement in either the health of the eye nor improved vision.

In the case of the later outcome, acupuncture treatment will be discontinued. Regardless of the outcome of acupuncture treatment, you must continue with regular care from your eye physician.

Other eye diseases which might benefit from acupuncture include Diabetic Retinopathy, Stargardt’s disease, and Retinitis Pigmentosa. Acupuncture care for these diseases are similar to Macular Degeneration. Again, patients must be under the care of an eye physician.

It is important to note that acupuncture is not a cure for these conditions, but may help the overall health of your eye as well as your body in general.

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