Acupuncture for eye diseases

Why Can Acupuncture Treat Eye Diseases?

Acupuncture involves the use of needles and moxibustion to stimulate acupoints on the body to treat diseases. The use of acupuncture for treating eye diseases was documented as early as in “The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor,” which states, “The twelve meridians and the three hundred and sixty-five collateral channels all have their qi and blood ascend to the face and flow into the sensory orifices, with the essence and yang qi ascending to the eyes to become the vision.” The eyes are directly or indirectly connected to the twelve meridians and the eight extra meridians. Therefore, stimulating specific acupoints can treat particular eye diseases through the connections of these meridians.

Modern clinical studies show that acupuncture positively affects many physiological indicators of the eye, mainly in the following aspects:

  1. It can improve vision for most eye diseases and “normal eyes,” such as mid-stage cataracts, central retinal artery occlusion, refractive errors, eye muscle diseases, amblyopia, optic atrophy, etc.
  2. Fluorescein angiography and Doppler ultrasound tests reveal that acupuncture can improve local blood circulation in the eyes.
  3. It reduces intraocular pressure in various eye diseases.
  4. It significantly improves convergence insufficiency, visual fatigue, and the degree of strabismus in paralytic strabismus.
  5. It positively affects tear secretion and tear film breakup time.
  6. It improves latency and amplitude in the visual evoked potential of patients with fundus diseases, significantly affecting latency in normal individuals but not amplitude.

These aspects indicate that acupuncture mainly promotes eye blood circulation, stimulates visual nerve functions, enhances and improves eye muscle functions, increases tear secretion, and improves tear metabolism. Although acupuncture is a non-specific method and lacks targeted treatment for certain pathological changes, it has positive effects on various eye functions and can be widely and effectively used in treating various eye diseases.

What Eye Diseases Does Acupuncture Treat Effectively?

Acupuncture has been used to treat dozens of eye diseases. Research shows that for ischemic diseases and certain optic nerve diseases characterized by vision decline, such as uveitis and later stages of glaucoma, chronic or post-surgery conditions without severe refractive media opacity, such as early-stage age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, acupuncture can be a primary treatment method. For some acute and severe eye diseases with ischemia as the main pathological change (e.g., arterial occlusion, ischemic optic neuropathy), a combination of acupuncture and medication should be used. For acute inflammatory eye diseases, acute glaucoma, congenital eye diseases, acupuncture can be an auxiliary method. Hemorrhagic diseases are not suitable for early-stage acupuncture but can use acupuncture to improve vision and visual function after hemorrhage absorption. Eye muscle diseases due to weakened eye muscle function, visual fatigue, and pseudomyopia can be primarily treated with acupuncture. For external eye inflammations, acupuncture can stimulate tear secretion, prolong tear film breakup time, and is effective for chronic keratoconjunctivitis. Therefore, acupuncture is one of the best treatment methods for chronic eye diseases with poor blood circulation and various weakened physiological functions.

Common Acupuncture Methods for Ophthalmology

Common acupuncture methods in ophthalmology include needling, moxibustion, acupoint injection, and ear acupressure. Needling often involves filiform needles, plum-blossom needles, and three-edged needles. Filiform needles are inserted into acupoints and manipulated to make the patient feel a local sensation of soreness, numbness, or distension (“deqi”), used for most eye diseases. Electroacupuncture, where electric currents are passed through needle handles, is less common on the face. First-time acupuncture patients may experience dizziness, paleness, cold sweat, or even fainting (“needle shock”). In such cases, needles should be withdrawn immediately, and the patient should rest quietly. Plum-blossom needles are used for repeated tapping on facial acupoints, treating pseudomyopia and visual fatigue. Early-stage hordeolum is often treated by pricking the ear apex with a three-edged needle to release a few drops of blood, avoiding deep pricking, and using the needle handle to peck at the swollen area around the eye. Moxibustion, generally not used on the face, involves burning moxa to stimulate acupoints, mainly on the limbs and torso. Ear acupressure involves placing seeds on relevant acupoints inside the ear, providing prolonged gentle stimulation without pain or risk, especially for children who cannot tolerate acupuncture.

What Is Ophthalmic Acupuncture Therapy?

Ophthalmic acupuncture therapy uses acupuncture to treat eye diseases. It has a wide range of applications and rapid effects. It is particularly effective for common acute eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, iridocyclitis, optic neuritis, ocular myasthenia, eyelid spasms, tearing disorders, visual fatigue, and significantly improves visual function, vision, and visual field in various vision decline and narrowed visual field conditions. Acupuncture can reduce or eliminate pain in patients with severe eye pain accompanied by migraines, achieving results that are often unattainable with medication.

How Are the Eyes Connected to the Meridians?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers the eyes one of the five sense organs closely related to internal organs, connected through meridians. “The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor” states that the essence of the five organs and six viscera ascends to the eyes to become the vision. The eyes’ essential connection to meridians is well-documented. Eight of the twelve primary meridians converge at or near the eyes, and all twelve are directly or indirectly related to the eyes. In the eight extra meridians, the Ren, Du, Yangqiao, Yinqiao, Yangwei, and Yinwei meridians also start at the eyes.

The distribution is as follows:

  • Meridians converging at the eyes or nearby: Hand Yangming Large Intestine Meridian, Hand Shaoyin Heart Meridian, Hand Shaoyang Triple Burner Meridian, Yangwei Meridian, Du Meridian, Ren Meridian.
  • Meridians starting at the eyes or nearby: Foot Yangming Stomach Meridian, Foot Taiyang Bladder Meridian, Foot Shaoyang Gallbladder Meridian.
  • Meridians passing through the eyes or surrounding areas: Hand Taiyang Small Intestine Meridian, Foot Jueyin Liver Meridian.

The relationship between the collateral meridians, sinew channels, and eye muscles is also critical. Clinical observations show that needling specific acupoints can effectively treat strabismus, demonstrating the close connection between the meridians and eye muscles.

Commonly Used Acupoints in Ophthalmology and Their Indications

Acupoints are chosen based on the nature of the eye disease, the pathological mechanism, the overall condition of the body, and whether the disease is due to deficiency or excess. Eye treatments primarily use acupoints around the eyes, with appropriate body points based on the condition. Techniques such as five shu points, Luo connecting points, Xi cleft points, Back-Shu and Front-Mu points, and Eight Confluent points are often used. “Treat acute diseases by addressing symptoms, treat chronic diseases by addressing the root cause” is a guiding principle. For chronic conditions, acupuncture adjusts the whole body, improves blood supply, and enhances resistance. For emotional injuries, points that improve mental state are selected; for hemorrhagic eye diseases, points that both stop and activate blood flow are used.

Commonly used acupoints include:

  • Around the eyes: Jingming (BL-1), Qiuhou (EX-HN7), Chengqi (ST-1), Zanzhu (BL-2), Yuyao (EX-HN4), Tongziliao (GB-1), Taiyang (EX-HN5), Sibai (ST-2), Yingxiang (LI-20).
  • Body points: Baihui (DU-20), Fengchi (GB-20), Wangu (GB-12), Dazhui (DU-14), Tianzhu (BL-10), Guangming (GB-37), Zusanli (ST-36), Hegu (LI-4).

Acupuncture in ophthalmology treats acute and chronic external eye inflammations, eyelid spasms, neuralgias, ptosis, strabismus, tearing disorders, retinal vascular occlusions, optic neuritis, vascular inflammations, optic atrophy, and various vision decline conditions due to different causes, among others.

Special Requirements for Acupuncture Techniques in Eye Disease Treatment

Due to the rich blood supply and loose surrounding tissue in the eye region, acupuncture techniques differ from those used on the limbs or chest. Manipulation in the eye region can easily cause retrobulbar hemorrhage, complicating observation and treatment. Hence, strong reinforcement and reduction techniques are generally avoided. Gentle insertion, mild manipulation, and slow withdrawal are recommended. For deep acupoints like Jingming and Qiuhou, fine needles and controlled insertion are necessary to avoid vascular or deep tissue injury. For retrobulbar hemorrhage, local pressure and oral medications like Sanqi tablets can aid recovery.

Typical Course Length for Acupuncture Treatment of Eye Diseases

The treatment duration varies based on the condition. Acute conditions like hordeolum may require only a few sessions, while chronic diseases like optic atrophy might need multiple courses of treatment. Generally, treatment duration is shorter for external eye diseases and longer for internal or chronic conditions. Persistent treatment is essential for chronic or severe cases, and early intervention often yields better results.

Acupuncture is a powerful tool in treating eye diseases, providing relief and improving function through its unique mechanisms and holistic approach.