In a study conducted by the late Hong Kong-based ophthalmologist, Dr Renald Ching, who was known to introduce acupuncture in ophthalmic surgery, it was found that by treating over half thousand patients with three years of follow-up acupuncture was effective in chronic retinal diseases. Conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, optic atrophy, retinal degeneration, high myopia, retrobulbar neuritis, cataract, glaucoma and retinal detachment respond favourably to acupuncture.
In all cases, the improvement occurred in the central acuity but no improvement was seen in the visual field, colour perception and night-blindness. Invariably, it was the macula (central area of the retina) and not the entire retina that responded to the treatment. This led to the question—is it possible that the technique used had missed other acupuncture points in the body which could affect the peripheral retina (ie, the rods as well as the cones)? However, the conclusion drawn was that a common denominator where acupuncture can work was found in the muscular function of all eyes (diseased or not diseased). If this muscular function is improved, then any retinal disease will show also improvement.
Acupuncture works well and quickly in cataract cases. In over 200 cases, after one course of acupuncture treatment, an average 50 percent improvement of vision was obtained. The type of lens capacity, duration or any other complication did not matter much. In all these cases, the surgical operation needed could be deferred for a long period of time.
In an aphakic eye, the vision could be improved remarkably by acupuncture, no matter how long ago the operation was done. As long as the macula in the eye is healthy, and there is no tissue remnant causing obstruction along the visual axis, the vision of the aphakic eye, which becomes stationary after all usual treatments, can be expected to further improve by the use of acupuncture. The result in surgical aphakia is much more permanent and requires no top-up compared with cataracts before operation.
In glaucoma cases, the tension in the eyes must first be controlled by miotics or operation. Acupuncture does not lower intraocular pressure. The visual field and disc cupping are not changed. But when the glaucomatous eye is quiet, the vision is stationary at a certain limit and cannot further be improved by other means; acupuncture can pick up from that point and improve the vision further.
Similarly, in cases of retinal detachment, which have been successfully operated on, recently or years ago, acupuncture has improved the vision. It does not alter the appearance of the re-attached retina, and there is no change in the visual field. The improvement mainly occurs in visual acuity. The author is Head of the Department of Acupuncture, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi. This treatment is now being made available in India.