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Treating Eye Disease with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

By Stephanie H. Lee, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Acupuncture has been used for more than 3,000 years to treat eye disease. By inserting tiny needles into the skin (not in the eyes or eyeball), the therapy can help preserve vision for those with a wide range of eye conditions including dry eyes, eye floaters, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

When the macular begins to break down in the elderly, there is often little that western medicine can offer, particularly for dry macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease, and rod-cone dystrophy. A small study in China found that acupuncture was 88% effective for macular degeneration patients versus 60% effective for a control group (which received vitamins and medication).1

How does it work?

The liver meridian is often implicated in eye disease as the liver “opens to the eyes.” It is the primary energy flow responsible for supporting vision health; however, all internal organs nourish the eyes as all meridians either run through the eyes, or if out of balance, can affect vision health.

Within the eyes, the following meridians have primary influence:

  • sclera: lung
  • eye and pupil: kidney
  • cornea and iris: liver
  • retina: kidney and liver
  • veins and arteries: heart
  • bottom eyelid: stomach
  • top eyelid: spleen

For chronic conditions, the patient usually gets acupuncture once or twice per week until they see sufficient results. For acute conditions, treatment may be more frequent for a shorter period of time. Often, treatment protocol includes herbs combined with acupuncture.

Results depend on how far the condition has progressed and how permanent the nerve damage is. But about 70 to 90 percent of my patients have some improvement in their condition during the treatment sessions. Most cases I have worked with stabilize long-term as long as patients keep up with treatment, take recommended supplements, and follow diet and lifestyle modifications.

Generally, protocol for macular degeneration is two treatments per week for at least 10 weeks. Most will see improvement within the initial 10 treatments; more severe cases may need the additional follow-up visits to see benefits.

Acupuncture for eye disease is time-tested therapy with little, to no, side effects and offers hope for those seeking to improve their vision loss.

Dr. Lee is founding owner of Advanced Acupuncture & Wellness Center in Rancho Mirage and may be reached at (760) 832.7585.

Reference: 1) NJ, J., January 2011. Observation on therapeutic effect of age-related macular degeneration treated with acupuncture. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, pp. 43-5.

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