Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can cause vision loss by damaging the optic nerve. This damage can sometimes be caused by an increase of pressure inside of the eye (intraocular pressure). However, many people with glaucoma have normal or low intraocular pressure. Although it is not yet fully understood how each type of glaucoma damages the optic nerve, one common feature to all types of glaucoma is the lack of blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. This can eventually cause retinal nerve cell death and loss of vision. This is where acupuncture can help.
Acupuncture and Glaucoma | The Research
Decreasing Intraocular Pressure
Researchers in Germany studied the effect of acupuncture on 18 patients diagnosed with glaucoma and high intraocular pressure. Measurements of the pressure were taken 15 minutes before, 15 minutes after, and 24 hours after treatment with acupuncture. Patients showed an average decrease of 2.5 mm Hg in their intraocular pressure with no adverse effects.¹
Japanese researchers also reported intraocular pressure “significantly improved” after receiving acupuncture twice a week for five weeks. They also noted that the pressure “tended to be lower weekly” as treatment continued.²
Research at the Ophthalmology Department of Ji County TCM Hospital in Tianjin China also reported a decrease in intraocular pressure measured several times for 24 hours after acupuncture treatment.³
Increasing Circulation to the Eyes
It has been known for many years now that glaucoma is associated with a decreased blood flow velocity in blood vessels of the eye (the retrobulbar vessels). This impaired circulation contributes to the damage of the optic nerve. Therefore, more drugs and interventions are being researched to help improve this problem of blood flow in the eyes for glaucoma patients.
A Japanese study utilizing acupuncture for glaucoma patients displayed a positive effect on increasing retrobulbar circulation. Their results also showed a decrease in intraocular pressure. The study concluded that we should consider utilizing acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for glaucoma patients.4
Improvement of Visual Acuity
A study out of Japan also showed acupuncture’s effect on improving visual acuity in patients suffering from glaucoma. Acupuncture was given two times a week for five weeks and the researchers noted that, “uncorrected visual acuity was significantly improved at three weeks, four weeks, and five weeks, and best corrected visual acuity was significantly improved at five weeks.”²
Glaucoma can be a very serious disease that can lead to significant vision loss and blindness. It’s important to visit your ophthalmologist for a complete eye examination every couple of years unless you have any of the following:
- family history of glaucoma
- significant nearsightedness
- corneal disease
- smoke a pack or more of cigarettes a day
- are African-American (three times more likely to develop open angle glaucoma)
If you have any of those risk factors, you should have a complete eye exam every year.
Acupuncture should be considered as an adjunct therapy to help preserve the health of the optic nerve. It’s effects on improving circulation to the eyes, decreasing intraocular pressure, and improving visual acuity, make it a worthwhile tool for many people suffering from glaucoma. When combined with a proper Chinese medicine herbal formula and other supplements designed to improve the overall health of the body, the treatment will be even more effective. It is important to remember, that the health of the eyes relies on the health of the entire body.
¹Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003 Oct;10(5):256-61. [Standardized acupuncture therapy in patients with ocular hypertension or glaucoma–results of a prospective observation study].[Article in German], Uhrig S, Hummelsberger J, Brinkhaus B., Bugenärztliche Praxis, Wiesbaden, Deutschland
²Explore (NY). 2005 Sep;1(5):372-6, Acupuncture for patients with glaucoma. Kurusu M, Watanabe K, Nakazawa T, Seki T, Arai H, Sasaki H, Fuse N, Tamai M., Department of Geriatric and Respiratory Medicine, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, 980-8574, Japan.
³Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 Jun;31(6):518-20, [Impact of acupuncture on 24 h intraocular pressure of glaucoma]. [Article in Chinese], Liu W, Yang G, Zhao XJ, Song YG, Liu T, Chai PP, Zhao XY, Ophthalmology Department of Ji County TCM Hospital, Tianjin 301900, China. firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:157090. doi: 10.1155/2011/157090. Epub 2011 Mar 7., Short-term effects of acupuncture on open-angle glaucoma in retrobulbar circulation: additional therapy to standard medication, Takayama S, Seki T, Nakazawa T, Aizawa N, Takahashi S, Watanabe M, Izumi M, Kaneko S, Kamiya T, Matsuda A, Kikuchi A, Yambe T, Yoshizawa M, Nitta S, Yaegashi N, Department of Traditional Asian Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Tohoku University, 1-1 Seiryo-machi, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8574, Japan.
David Russell, L.Ac, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, with a Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and postgraduate studies in Hangzhou, China. Inspired to holistically heal vision conditions, David Russell studied under the nationally acclaimed Dr. Andy Rosenfarb. Now David brings to you a specialized system of acupuncture, nutrition, herbs, and functional medicine to help heal your eyes and restore the health of your body.