Acupuncture for the Eyes

There is growing interest by researchers worldwide in acupuncture for the eyes. Eye conditions are routinely treated with acupuncture in Chinese hospitals. Below are summaries of some recently published papers. You will not find research on every possible eye complaint, so do not be disappointed if yours is not there. You are always welcome to give me a call and discuss things.

Do take your eye health seriously. Our eyes are more challenged in the modern world, by things like long hours of screen use, or air conditioning in the workplace. See an optician for an eye examination at least every two years, even if you don’t wear glasses. It sometimes detects other underlying health problems.

With some conditions such as dry eye, recurrent conjunctivitis and blepharitis, there is much important lifestyle and self-care advice that I will suggest to you. It is important that you follow these recommendations if the treatment is to have maximum impact.

Acupuncture for Glaucoma

Acupuncture Exeter: acupuncture for glaucoma. A research team in Taiwan studying acupuncture for glaucoma, has shown that it can be used to lower intraocular pressure. In their randomised, three-arm trial, 45 glaucoma patients were randomised to receive either acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or electroacupuncture twice a week for two weeks.

The reduction in intraocular pressure from immediately before treatment to one hour after treatment, was significantly greater in the acupuncture and electroacupuncture groups, compared with the sham group. This held true for all four treatment sessions and in both eyes.

(Effect of Acupuncture on Intraocular Pressure in Glaucoma Patients: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 28 April 2020.)

Treatment of Dry Eye

Treatment of dry eye. A team of American researchers led by the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has shown acupuncture can be a helpful addition to routine clinical treatment of dry eye. A cohort of 49 patients were randomly assigned to receive either true (24) or (25) sham acupuncture. Treatment was given twice, on consecutive days. One week after treatment, both groups exhibited improvements on the ocular surface disease index, but at six months, the improvement was significantly greater in the true acupuncture group. By three months, true acupuncture was associated with improvements in many subjective measures of dry eye symptoms (eg scratchiness, redness & discomfort), although several objective measures remained unchanged. Even though not statistically significant, true acupuncture patients required fewer artificial tears.

The researchers conclude that acupuncture can be an effective adjunct to routine clinical treatment of dry eye, especially given its low risk profile.

(Acupuncture and dry eye: current perspectives. A double-blinded randomized controlled trial and review of the literature. Clinical Ophthalmology, 24 April 2019.)

Acupuncture and Glaucoma

Acupuncture and glaucoma. Researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Dresden, Germany looking at acupuncture and glaucoma, have found that blood flow to the eyes can be improved by giving acupuncture to patients with primary open-angle glaucoma. Disturbances in ocular blood flow have been coming under scrutiny as a cause of visual field damage in glaucoma patients.

In the randomised study, 56 patients aged 32 to 69, were assigned to receive either a single acupuncture treatment using acupuncture points traditionally used to benefit eye health, or to a single treatment using points which are not specific to eye health. Ocular blood flow parameters were measured before treatment, and again ten minutes afterwards. Pulsatile ocular blood flow was seen to increase significantly after only the eye-specific acupuncture treatment.

(The short-term effect of acupuncture on different ocular blood flow parameters in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma: a randomized, clinical study. Clinical Ophthalmology, 19 July 2018.)

Dry Eyes and Acupuncture

Acupuncture in Exeter: dry eyes and acupuncture. Investigators at the Singapore Eye Research Institute have found that acupuncture can help dry eyes by providing benefits in addition to those provided by artificial tears. A total of 150 patients aged 40 to 85, were randomly allocated to receive either artificial tears alone (Systane Ultra four times per day), artificial tears plus eight acupuncture sessions (delivered twice a week), or artificial tears plus a Chinese herbal supplement traditionally used for dry eyes. Treatment took place over a one month period.

Compared with the group using artificial tears alone, the acupuncture group reported lower symptom scores, and also reduced conjunctival redness. Inflammatory cytokine levels in tear fluid were significantly reduced following acupuncture. The herbal supplement did not significantly alter symptom scores. No adverse effects of acupuncture were noted.

The researchers conclude that treatment involving predominantly eye drops usually provides only temporary symptomatic relief. This study suggests that 30% of people with dry eye may not actually obtain relief from drops, so alternative treatments should be explored. For mild to moderate dry eye, acupuncture can be considered, provided that there is access to suitably trained and accredited professionals.

(Acupuncture & herbal formulation compared with artificial tears alone: evaluation of dry eye symptoms & associated tests in randomised clinical trial. BMJ Open Ophthalmology, 18 June 2018.)