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.)
Acupuncture has been found to offer objectively measurable improvements in tear film quantity in patients with certain types of dry eye. A total of 108 such patients were randomised to receive either acupuncture or artificial tears. Both groups were divided into three subgroups based on their type of dry eye: lipid tear deficiency, Sjogren dry eye and non-Sjogren dry eye. Acupuncture was given three times per week for four weeks. Artificial tears were permitted four times per day in both eyes, for four weeks.
After four weeks of treatment, compared to baseline measurements and control groups, tear film quantity had increased significantly in the acupuncture group for lipid tear deficiency and non-Sjogren dry eye, but not for the Sjogren dry eye group. Where the latter group is concerned, the authors speculate that the treatment period may have been too short, and that given the chronic degeneration of specialised cells which occurs in Sjogrens, a more complex approach to treatment may be necessary.
(Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography for monitoring the lower tear meniscus in dry eye after acupuncture treatment. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2015.)
A pilot study undertaken by researchers at John Hopkins University in the USA, suggests that acupuncture may offer significant and measurable improvements in residual visual function for patients with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP is an inherited eye condition in which the cells of the retina gradually stop working. Twelve adult patients with RP were given ten 30 minute acupuncture sessions over a two week period.
After treatment, six of the twelve showed significant improvements in visual function. Three of nine subjects given a full-field stimulus threshold test, had a 13- to 53-fold improvement in both eyes at one week after acupuncture, maintained for at least 10 to 12 months. Acupuncture was well-tolerated by all, without adverse events or visual loss. The researchers conclude that acupuncture entails minimal risk, if administered by a well-trained acupuncturist and may have significant, measurable benefits on residual visual function in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, in particular scotopic sensitivity, which had not previously been studied. These preliminary findings support the need for future controlled studies of potential mechanisms.
(A pilot study of an acupuncture protocol to improve visual function in retinitis pigmentosa. Clinical & Experimental Optometry, May 2014.)
South Korean researchers have found that acupuncture out-performed artificial tears in the treatment of dry eyes. A total of 150 patients with moderate to severe dry eye syndrome, were enrolled in a multicentre, randomised, controlled trial. Participants were randomly allocated to receive either acupuncture for four weeks, or treatment with artificial tears (sodium carboxymethylcellulose). After one month, both groups showed similar improvements in dry eye symptoms and quality of life, but tear film stability was significantly greater in the acupuncture group. Additionally, at eight weeks following cessation of acupuncture, the acupuncture patients exhibited significantly improved dry eye symptoms compared with the control group.
The researchers conclude acupuncture may have benefits on the mid-term outcomes related to dry eye syndrome compared with artificial tears.
(Acupuncture for the Treatment of Dry Eye: A Multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial with Active Comparison Intervention (Artificial Tears). PLOS One, May 2012.)
In the first study of its kind, Japanese researchers have found that acupuncture appears to benefit glaucoma patients by reducing intraocular pressure, and improving blood circulation behind the eye. Eleven patients with open-angle glaucoma were enrolled to receive either acupuncture treatment or rest. Acupuncture consisted of one 15 minute experimental treatment. Measurements of pressure and blood flow, showed that in the short-term, intraocular pressure decreased significantly after acupuncture, and this was accompanied by improved blood flow behind the eyes.
(Short-Term Effects of Acupuncture on Open-Angle Glaucoma in Retrobulbar Circulation: Additional Therapy to Standard Medication. Evidence Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, March 2011 Epub ahead of print.)