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Acupuncture For Glaucoma Eyesight Protection

Acupuncture demonstrates the ability to benefit patients with glaucoma. Modern research has determined that acupuncture benefits blood flow in the arteries of the brain and eyes. The results are confirmed with ocular blood flow (OBF) flowmeter readings for ocular pulse amplitude. Let’s take a look at the results, the acupuncture procedures that achieved the results, and a let’s start with a close look at glaucoma and the challenges it presents. 

Primary open-angle glaucoma affects over 60 million people worldwide and is the most common cause of irreversible blindness. Although common treatments can help to delay the progression of the disease, glaucoma currently has no cure. However, ancient texts of Chinese Medicine, including Yin Hai Jing Wei (Essential Subtleties on the Silver Sea), a 15th century book on ophthalmology, have established treatment protocols for many eye diseases including glaucoma. To test ancient theory against a modern understanding of disease progression, there have been a number of studies published examining the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including herbs and acupuncture, for the treatment of glaucoma. Recently, researchers at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Hospital (Dresden, Germany) investigated the short-term effects of acupuncture on different ocular blood flow parameters and found that acupuncture based on eye-specific protocols had reproducible and quantifiable effects on ocular blood flow in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma.

Glaucoma is defined by the “remodeling of the optic nerve head and a progressive loss of retinal nerve fibers” [1] beyond normal age-related decay; [2] this optic nerve degeneration eventually leads to visual field loss and, eventually, complete and irreversible blindness. [3] Of the 60 million people worldwide with glaucoma, between 4.5 and 8.4 million are blind as a result and, unlike blindness caused by cataracts (18 million worldwide), the progression of the disease cannot be reversed, which is why it is so important to manage the precipitating factors. [4]

Aqueous humor is a clear fluid continually produced by the eye. When the eyes are healthy, the amount of aqueous humor that is produced is equal to the amount that flows out of the eye. If the aqueous humor does not flow out of the eye properly, pressure in the eye builds up and causes ocular hypertension. [5] Intraocular pressure (IOP) is the most important factor in the progression of glaucoma; elevated IOP contributes to glaucomatous damage, and treatments that lower IOP are currently the standard of care for slowing nerve degeneration.

“Although IOP reduction is currently the main target for the treatment of glaucoma, treatment modalities that enhance retrobulbar hemodynamics in addition to reducing IOP may have a beneficial effect on the glaucoma therapy. It has been reported that glaucoma is associated with reduction in the blood flow velocity and elevation of the resistive index (RI) in the retrobulbar vessels. It has also been reported that patients with OAG [open angle glaucoma] have impaired hemodynamics in ophthalmic circulation.” [6] According to the vascular theory of glaucoma, optic neuropathy is a “consequence of insufficient blood supply due to either increased IOP or other risk factors reducing ocular blood flow (OBF).” [7] Others recently have begun to view glaucoma as a systemic disorder of the central nervous system (CNS).

Anatomically, the retina of the eye is part of the CNS: the axons of the retinal ganglion cells connect the eye directly to the brain through the optic nerve, which carries nerve impulses of visual input from the photosensitive rods and cones to the brain for processing. [8] “This anatomical continuity and the similarities at the molecular level are why glaucoma is increasingly considered together with other neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia,” [9] where apoptosis leads to neural degeneration. The consideration of glaucoma as a systemic disease has not yet led to any treatment strategies, but researchers are rethinking the possibilities and designing studies such as these which address other mechanisms of disease progression to test possible alternatives and complements to traditional care. “Sensory stimulation in the form of acupuncture/acupressure appears to have the potential to address all three areas of interest: IOP, blood flow and regulation of apopto