Macular degeneration is a chronic and progressive disease of the macula (central portion of retina responsible for fine vision acuity) that blurs, distorts and weakens central vision.
It is estimated that 15 million Americans have some form of age-related macular degeneration (also known as ARMD or AMD), and numbers continue to rise.
A combination of genetic and environmental factors, aging, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation contributes to AMD.
In this article, we will discuss how Chinese medicine and acupuncture can help slow down the progression of this disease.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Decreased central vision
Blind spots (scotomas)
Distorted vision (Metamorphosia)
Difficulty seeing in dim light
Seeing objects as smaller in one eye
Contrast sensitivity loss
Difficulty discerning dark colors from light ones
Acupuncture for reducing inflammation
More and more studies show that chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in the progression of this disease (3,4,5). Researchers have found that taking anti-inflammatory medication may slow the progression of macular degeneration. A study published in the journal Eye describes how corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could help those with AMD.
But, there are concerns about the safety of this solution. NSAID drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can cause eye hemorrhaging, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are proven to have anti-inflammatory properties and are good long term alternatives to NSAIDs. (1)(2)
Improving blood flow to the eyes
The macula, a tiny area at the back of the eye which is 1/16th of an inch, contains about 6 million cells. These cells only live for about two days and regenerate constantly.
In AMD patients, regeneration is slowed. Healing occurs when we stimulate normal blood flow back to the eyes, to favor nutrition and allow for the elimination of cellular waste in the form of plaques called Drusen.
Acupuncture is proven to improve blood flow. to the eyes (link)
Chinese medicine's perspective on AMD
Eye diseases should not necessarily be isolated to the eyes only. The eyes are part of the whole body that they are housed in. The health of the eye is dependent on the general condition and health of the entire body. Often related to Kidneys, Liver and spleen, eye health is a complex network.
To obtain optimal results, I treat the root cause factors of the disease as well as the symptoms.
Spleen Qi Vacuity – Not enough nutrients are lifted to the eyes, compromising the integrity of the tissue
Phlegm – build up of plaque and drusen
Kidney and Liver Yin deficiency – Genetic and epigenetic factors
Chinese Herbal Medicine - Base Formulas:
1. Yunnan Baiyao or Sanqi Powder: improves blood flow 2. Ming Mu Di Huang Tang : nourishes in case of deficiency 3. Shu Gan Tang + Erchen Tang : spreads and cleanses 4. Xiao Yao San: harmonizes the liver (organ in charge of the eyes) 5. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang: lifts nutrients up to the eyes
NOTE: These are suggested base formulas. Chinese herbal formulas are most effective when tailored to each patients needs based on your TCM diagnosis.
Your AMD treatment at taproot acupuncture & herbs
No treatment can cure AMD. Acupuncture aims at slowing down the progression and improving the current state of your eyes, by improving circulation and re-energizing dormant cells at the back of the eyes. Unfortunately, it is not a one-time-fixes-all kind of process. After the initial treatment, you will need maintenance.
We offer series of 10 or 20 sessions. A typical initial treatment is spread around 2 weeks, with 2 hour-long sessions per day for 5 days a week.
The treatment includes
- micro-current therapy (read here)
- herbal consultation and formulas
- diet and lifestyle recommendations (read here for essential nutrients for eye health)
Most patients start noticing improvements in vision after the first few days.
Around 80% of patients respond favorably to the treatment, gaining either more acuity, better dark adaptation, or larger vision field.
With regular maintenance (a few sessions seasonally, and continued herbs and supplements), you can slow down the degeneration and see better for longer.
No needle ever goes into the eyes!
No matter where you are in your eye health journey,
if you need support, we can help.
In addition to our own team of specialized acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you
find the right integrative and holistic care for you.
If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.
(1) Pan MH, Chiou YS, Tsai ML, Ho CT. Anti-inflammatory activity of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. J Tradit Complement Med. 2011;1(1):8-24. doi:10.1016/s2225-4110(16)30052-9
(2) H. Liao, L. K. Banbury, and D. N. Leach, “Antioxidant activity of 45 Chinese herbs and the relationship with their TCM characteristics,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 429–434, 2008.
(3)Kauppinen A, Paterno JJ, Blasiak J, Salminen A, Kaarniranta K. Inflammation and its role in age-related macular degeneration. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016;73(9):1765-1786. doi:10.1007/s00018-016-2147-8
(4) Jarrett SG, Boulton ME. Consequences of oxidative stress in age-related macular degeneration. Mol Aspects Med. 2012;33:399–417. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2012.03.009
(5) Ambati J, Atkinson JP, Gelfand BD. Immunology of age-related macular degeneration. Nat Rev Immunol. 2013;13:438–451. doi: 10.1038/nri3459.