Acupuncture Treats Dry Eye Syndrome

Acupuncture Treats Dry Eye Syndrome

According to the most recent statistics reported by the American Optometric Association (AOA,) approximately 16 million Americans, including twice as many women compared to men, develop dry eye syndrome. In addition, it is estimated that upwards of 6 million Americans do not report dry eye symptoms or get diagnosed.

If you struggle with eyes that feel fatigued, burning, and itching on a regular basis you could be experiencing dry eye syndrome. Surprisingly, excess tear production is also a symptom that usually occurs after a long period with eye dryness. 

Conventional medical treatment for dry eye syndrome involves all kinds of gels and drops, pills, plugs and injections and for some people, even surgery. Topical applications such as over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants like artificial tears temporarily help but it is often a deeper problem that could be causing this condition. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is one of the major factors in dry eye syndrome and most treatments cannot stop this gland from failing.

Caroline Blackie, O.D., Ph.D., who practices in Burlington, Massachusetts commented to the AOA,

“We know MGD is the leading cause of dry eye. Almost every patient you see with dry eye has MGD, which negatively impacts every aspect of ocular surface health including tear film host-defense, corneal nerve health, conjunctival health and much more”

In addition to OTC fixes, it has recently been reported that acupuncture treats dry eye syndrome. It may sound unconventional and tiny needles in any part of your body may not seem appealing but more people are realizing the drug-free, pain-free effectiveness of this ancient therapy. 

Thousands of Years in the Making

Acupuncture has been in existence for centuries. Archaeological digs have revealed tools similar to acupuncture needles that some speculate this practice being two to four thousand years old. In fact, there are published records and charts of acupuncture being used during the Ming Dynasty (c. 1368-1644) and even earlier, found in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, dating from about 100 BCE. 

However, it wasn’t until 1971 when acupuncture was awakened in America. At that time, James Reston, vice president of The New York Times and a member of the United States press corp, was on assignment with president Richard Nixon during a trip to China. Unexpectedly, Reston underwent an emergency appendectomy and, during his recovery, acupuncture was used to relieve pain and enhance healing. Reston was so impressed with the results of the acupuncture treatment that he wrote about his experience in the NY Times. This paved the way for acupuncture to begin entering the American mainstream. Since then, acupuncture has been continually studied and validated by conventional medicine with many practitioners working alongside doctors in major hospitals to relieve pain and enhance overall health. 

Now, acupuncture is being recommended for dry eye syndrome treatment as a possible catalyst for rewiring Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and relieving dry eye symptoms.

New Acupuncture Research

Most people would never expect that acupuncture would be able to help something like dry eye syndrome but research shows promising results. 

Recently, according to a study reported by Healthcare Medicine Institute, 

“Acupuncture outperforms drug therapy for the treatment of dry eye syndrome. Researchers from the Affiliated Eye Hospital of Nanjing Medical University compared the efficaciousness of acupuncture with sodium hyaluronate eye drops for the treatment of dry eye syndrome. Sodium hyaluronate achieved a 30.0% total effective rate and acupuncture achieved a 68.3% total effective rate. Acupuncture outperformed drug therapy for the improvement of lacrimal gland secretion and tear film (liquid layer covering the corneal surface) stability.”

No Pain, Effective Healing

More people are demanding less pharmaceutical medicines and invasive surgical procedures in lieu of alternative choices. There is finally an all-natural wave that is no longer considered a trending fad but rather a way of life for people who never knew it was possible to heal themselves without medication. 

Acupuncture was once considered a radical, painful treatment that scared people by simply mentioning needles. Now, through more education, people understand that acupuncture needles are the size of a human hair causing no pain or blood.

If you are experiencing chronic: 

  • Red eyes 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Stinging or burning feelings in your eye 
  • Blurry visionLook for a licensed acupuncturist 
  • Scratchy feeling, like there’s something in your eye

Talk to your eye doctor to determine a proper diagnosis and to especially make sure that nothing more serious is happening. Then, look for a licensed acupuncturist with experience in treating dry eye syndrome. The expected protocol is one to two times per week for approximately six weeks. Each session lasts about forty-five minutes with painless needles remaining in place the whole time while you close your eyes and lie comfortably still. Many health insurance programs cover acupuncture sessions and some practitioners will even work on a sliding scale. In addition, as an acupuncturist works on your dry eye syndrome there could be other, peripheral, beneficial health results as well.