Eyes & Ears
Your eyes are a reflection of your overall health. Illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be revealed in the eyes. Conditions such as glaucoma, optic neuritis or vision loss are often associated with systemic health problems. It is this interconnection between your eyes and your health that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can tap into and utilize to treat eye and vision problems. Eye conditions respond well to acupuncture and it has been used successfully to treat a wide range of eye problems for centuries.
How Eye Disorders Are Treated With Acupuncture
Oriental medicine pays close attention to the relationship between tissues and organs. Sometimes an imbalance within the body can manifest as an eye problem, just as the health of the eyes is often a reflection of an imbalance or health problem elsewhere in the body.
When you are treated for an eye condition with acupuncture, any underlying imbalances that are attributing to your symptoms will be addressed. The eye problems will also be treated directly by promoting circulation of Qi (life force) and blood around the eyes.
Common eye problems treated with acupuncture include:
Chronic Dry Eyes
Acupuncture Points Around the Eye
There are several powerful acupuncture points around the eyes that promote eye health. These points bring Qi and blood to the eyes to nourish the tissue and improve the condition of the eyes.
Jingming (UB-1) - When translated, Jingming means Bright eyes. This point is located in the inner corner of the eye. It is one of the primary points to bring Qi and blood to the eyes and is used for eye problems of all kinds including early-stage cataracts, glaucoma, night blindness, conjunctivitis and blurred vision.
Zanzhu (UB-2) - This point lies in the depression at the inner end of the eyebrow. Like Jingming, it is a primary point for the eyes and is used for all types of eye problems. Some of the indications to use this point include headache, blurring or failing of vision, pain in the supraorbital region, excessive tearing, redness, swelling and pain of the eye, twitching of the eyelids and glaucoma.
Yuyao - In the hollow at the midpoint of the eyebrow, directly above the pupil. It is used for eye strain, pain in the supraorbital region, twitching of the eyelids, ptosis, cloudiness of the cornea, redness, swelling and pain of the eyes.
Sizhukong (SJ 23) - In the hollow at the outside end of the eyebrow. This point is used for eye and facial problems including headaches, redness and pain of the eye, blurring of vision, twitching of the eyelids, toothache and facial paralysis.
Tongziliao (GB 1) - Located on the outside corner of the eye. This point is used to brighten the eyes as well as for headaches, redness and pain of the eyes, failing or blurring of vision, photophobia, dry, itchy eyes, early-stage cataracts and conjunctivitis.
Qiuhou - Below the eye, midway between St-1 and GB-1 along the orbit of the eye. Used for all types of eye disease.
Chengqi (St 1) - With the eyes looking straight forward, this point is directly below the pupil, between the eyeball and the eye socket. This is a main point for all eye problems, conjunctivitis, night blindness, facial paralysis and excessive tearing.
In addition to acupuncture, there are several things you can do each day to maintain eye health and avoid problems. Drink eight to ten glasses of water to keep your body and eyes hydrated. Stop smoking. Exercise to improve overall circulation. Make a conscious effort to stop periodically to rest and blink frequently especially when reading, working on a computer or watching television. Avoid rubbing your eyes. Always remember to always protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV light and glare with protective lenses.
Acupuncture May be Effective Treatment for Tinnitus
Do your ears ring after a loud concert" Nerves that sense touch in your face and neck may be behind the racket in your brain, University of Michigan researchers say.
Touch-sensing nerve cells step up their activity in the brain after hearing cells are damaged, a study by U-M Kresge Hearing Research Institute scientists shows. Hyperactivity of these touch-sensing neurons likely plays an important role in tinnitus, often called "ringing in the ears." The study, now online in the European Journal of Neuroscience, will appear in the journal's first January issue.
The research findings were made in animals, but they suggest that available treatments such as acupuncture, if used to target nerves in the head and neck, may provide relief for some people plagued by tinnitus, says Susan E. Shore, Ph.D., lead author of the study and research professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and the Kresge Hearing Research Institute at the U-M Medical School.
People with tinnitus sense ringing or other sounds in their ears or head when there is no outside source. Whether it's mild and intermittent or chronic and severe, tinnitus affects about one in 10 people. An estimated 13 million people in Western Europe and the United States seek medical advice for it. It is a growing problem for war veterans. Since 2000, the number of veterans receiving service-connected disability for tinnitus has increased by at least 18 percent each year, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
Increasing numbers of baby boomers are also finding that when they can't hear as well as they used to, tinnitus seems to move in. The condition commonly occurs with hearing loss, but also after head or neck trauma such as whiplash or dental work.
Tinnitus varies in individuals from a faint, high-pitched tone to whooshing ocean waves to annoying cricket-like chirping or screeching brakes. For some, it is constant and debilitating.
Some people, oddly enough, find that if they clench the jaw or press on the face or neck, they can temporarily stop tinnitus, or in some cases bring it on. To understand tinnitus and its strange link to touch sensations, Shore and her research team have conducted a series of studies in guinea pigs, measuring nerve activity in a part of the brain called the dorsal cochlear nucleus that processes auditory and other signals.
In normal hearing, the dorsal cochlear nucleus is the first stop in the brain for sound signals arriving from the ear via the auditory nerve. It's also a hub where "multitasking" neurons process sensory signals from other parts of the brain.
"In this study, we showed that when there is a hearing loss, other parts of the brain that normally convey signals to the cochlear nucleus have an enhanced effect," says Shore, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the U-M Medical School.
"When you take one source of excitation away, another source comes in to make up for it. The somatosensory system is coming in, but may overcompensate and help cause tinnitus," she says.
The somatosensory system is a nerve network in the body that provides information to the brain about touch, vibration, skin temperature and pain. The part of the system that provides sensations from the face and head, called the trigeminal system, brings signals to the cochlear nucleus that help us hear and speak.
But when people experience hearing loss or some other event, such as having a cavity filled or a tooth implanted, these neurons from the face and head can respond like overly helpful relatives in a family crisis. The resulting neuron firings in the cochlear nucleus, like too many phone calls, create the din of tinnitus, a "phantom sound" produced in the brain.
In the study, Shore and the paper's second author Seth Koehler, a U-M Ph.D. student in the U-M departments of Otolaryngology and Biomedical Engineering measured the patterns of activity of neurons in the brains of normal and deafened guinea pigs. They used a 16-electrode array to measure signals from the trigeminal nerve and multisensory neurons in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. When they compared results in the two groups, they found clear differences in trigeminal nerve activity.
"The study shows that in deafened animals, the somatosensory response is much stronger than in animals with normal hearing," Shore says.
Shore's research team knew from earlier research that some neurons in the cochlear nucleus become hyperactive after hearing damage, and this hyperactivity has been linked to tinnitus in animals.
"This study shows that it is only those neurons that receive somatosensory input that become hyperactive," she says, which should make the search for treatments for tinnitus in some people more straightforward.
Many people with temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), a condition that causes frequent pain in the jaw, experience tinnitus. Shore's research could lead to a better understanding of this link. In people with TMJ, the somatosensory system is disrupted and inflamed. Shore says that it's possible that in this situation, as in hearing loss, somatosensory neurons stir excessive neuron activity in the cochlear nucleus.
Healthy Eyes with Chinese Medicine
The world is changing more rapidly than at any other time in human history. As our concepts of Western medicine have shifted in recent years, today's public demands a more comprehensive approach from its health care providers.
The reductionist method of referring each symptom to the domain of a particular specialist, isolated from the whole person, is being replaced slowly with more complementary forms of health care like acupuncture and Chinese medicine. We are beginning to look at each person as an integrated being. Health providers now consider dietary preferences, exercise regimens, the types of relationships the person is engaged in, as well as the particular symptoms that brought him or her into treatment in determining treatment strategies.
I believe that eyesight is not an isolated phenomenon but is rooted in our totality. Our being includes our genetic makeup, the food we eat, our work environment and exposure to air borne toxins, as well as our belief systems about ourselves and our world. Each unique individual literally takes in the world through the senses, primarily vision. The way we see the world is, to some degree, a reflection of who we are. Our being is further reflected in the visual symptoms we manifest.
The body does not work as a series of parts in isolation, but as a dynamically integrated living system. Every cell in the body has receptors for neurotransmitters, so in a real sense every cell is a nerve cell. We do not see with our eyes or think with our brains, but rather live in a "minding body." This biological awareness of every cell is really the foundation of vision, the ability to derive meaning from patterns of electromagnetic stimuli we call light and to direct action based on this interpretation.
The skin of the entire body is covered with tiny electric eyes known in Chinese medicine as acupuncture points. These points follow along the flow of energy streams called meridians. In Chinese medicine, when the meridians are flowing smoothly, there is neither pain nor illness. When blockages exist in the meridians, pain and illness result. Each acupuncture point is a window of heightened sensitivity close to the surface of the skin, providing the acupuncturist with easy access to the meridians to clear blockages.
As vision problems are reaching epidemic levels in our society, the eye care industry has become a multi-billion dollar business. Its major tools such as glasses, contact lenses and eye surgery enter the lives of virtually all citizens of the Western world. In The Art of Seeing, Aldous Huxley wrote, "If everyone who had deficient vision had broken legs, the streets would be full of cripples."
Patients go to their eye doctors year after year with worsening eyesight. They typically are told that this is a normal part of the aging process and that nothing can be done to prevent visual decline. They may be put on a lifetime of medications such those diagnosed with glaucoma.
The following are common examples of conventional treatment or advice where in fact definitive holistic measures could be taken to prevent vision from deteriorating.
Eye care professionals increase their patients' prescriptions year after year as needed, and explain that weakening vision is just part of aging, even in children.
People with cataracts (which includes nearly all adults over the age of 65) are told there is nothing that can prevent the growth of cataracts and therefore to wait until the cataract "ripens" (gets more opaque) and then have it removed surgically.
Patients with macular degeneration are told there is nothing that can be done, that they will most likely lose vision and, in some cases, go blind.
Patients with early stages of glaucoma are either immediately placed on medication for a lifetime, or told to wait and see if the condition worsens. In the meantime, the patients are not told of any of the preventative measures that could be taken.
Where is the much needed prevention, education and rehabilitation? There are numerous peer-review studies that show clearly that these eye conditions can respond to proper diet, lifestyle adaptations and nutritional supplementation, and that people can preserve their vision. As leaders in the complementary health care profession, acupuncturists and herbalists can readily expand their role into one of helping people maintain their invaluable gift of sight.
Medication and surgery are sometimes necessary and, in acute cases, can preserve vision. The role of modern Western medicine in saving lives and vision is remarkable, a true blessing. But medicine as practiced today lacks the holistic and preventive emphasis that many times can obviate the need for surgery and medications. There are certain conditions such as macular degeneration for which conventional medicine has virtually nothing to offer sufferers. This is an excellent example of where holistic medicine should be at the forefront of treatment rather than at the backdoor.
INTRODUCTION TO CHINESE MEDICINE AND EYECARE
The human body is a complex, organic unit. Its tissues and organs are interrelated and mutually dependent. Therefore the health of the eyes, as the optical organ of the body, can influence and be influenced by any and every other organ in the body.
Acupuncture has been successful in treating a wide range of visual conditions including glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, optic neuritis and optic atrophy. The Western and Eastern medical approach varies in a fundamental way. Western medicine defines eye disease on the basis of the pathophysiological disease process (how "X" causes "Y"), and assigns a specific diagnosis to define the underlying pathology. Once this diagnosis is made, the treatment and medication are often the same for patients with similar diagnoses, regardless of differing symptoms. This approach can be very effective for acute conditions, but often falls short for ongoing chronic conditions where the cause or causes of the symptoms are elusive. In Chinese theory, every individual is viewed as unique. Chinese medicine looks for patterns of disharmony in a person to determine the relationship between "X" and "Y." Healing does not depend on identifying how X causes Y, but on how X's and Y's are interrelated. Practitioners of Chinese medicine do not put labels on disease, but rather determine treatment based on the pattern of symptoms the patient manifests.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), all diseases involving the eye are closely related to the liver. It is also understood that the eye is nourished by all of the internal organs in the body. The lens of the eye and the pupil basically belong to the kidney, the sclera to the lungs, the arteries and veins to the heart, the top eyelid to the spleen, the bottom eyelid to the stomach, and the cornea and iris to the liver. The Spleen and Stomach also control circulation in the eyes. Therefore an imbalance in any of the internal organs may lead to eye disease.
Our experience and that of others indicates that visual health is a dynamic process including such considerations as:
the type of work we do (90% of accountants are nearsighted while only 10% of farmers are nearsighted);
lifestyle, which includes whether we smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and coffee, exercise, attitude, etc.;
adaptation to stress;
what we eat as well as how well we absorb nutrients;
MAJOR ACUPRESSURE EYE POINTS
There are a number of acupuncture/acupressure points around the eyes (basically around the orbits of the eyes which are the bones that surround the eyeballs). The points shown above are some of the major local eye points.
Jingming (UB-1) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies where the inner corner of the eye meets the nose. Bladder 1 and 2 are perhaps the best two points for eye problems of all kinds from early-stage cataracts or glaucoma to hysteria with vision loss. They are also used for problems with conjunctivitis due to Wind-Heat and Liver Heat, to blurred vision in the elderly due to Deficient Jing and Blood
Zanzhu (UB-2) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies in the depressions at the inner ends of the eyebrows. Bladder 1 and 2 are perhaps the best two points for eye problems of all kinds from early-stage cataracts or glaucoma to hysteria with vision loss. They are also used for problems with conjunctivitis due to Wind-Heat and Liver Heat, to blurred vision in the elderly due to Deficient Jing and Blood
Yuyao Midpoint of the eyebrow in the hollow. Good for eye problems related to worry, excessive study and mental strain.
Sizhukong (SJ 23) Sanjiao or Triple Burner Channel, in the depression at the outside end of the eyebrow. This is a local point good for eye and facial problems, whether due to Wind invasion or the Liver Yang and Fire.
Tongziliao (GB 1) Gall Bladder Channel, lies in the cavities on the outside corners of the eye sockets. Good for eye problems including conjunctivitis, red sore eyes, photophobia, dry, itchy eyes, early-stage cataracts and blurred vision, as well as lateral headaches.
Qiuhou Midway between St-1 and GB-1 along the orbit of the eyes.
Chengqi (St 1) directly blow the pupil on the infraorbital ridge bone. This is a main point for all eye problems, including those due to Wind Cold, Wind Heat and Hyperactive Liver Yang.
Instructions for doing self-acupressure for eye health:
GENTLY massage each acupuncture point around the orbit of the eye, starting with B1-1 and massaging each point as you go up and outward. Each point should be massaged for approximately 5-10 seconds. You can massage both eyes at the same time. You can do this massage as often as you like over the course of the day. You may find that each point feels different in terms of sensitivity.
Keep BREATHING as you massage. Deep breathing helps the cells of your eyes receive the oxygen they need for healing. Practice long, slow abdominal breathing while massaging the acupressure points.
CAUTION: If you are pregnant, consult a trained acupuncturist before treating yourself. Do not massage on an area if it has a scar, burn or infection.
Since we consider most eye conditions to be a reflection of the health of the whole body, lifestyle choices and diet can play a major factor in getting and maintaining good vision. Below are some recommendations:
The Vision Diet. Recommended in Natural Eye Care, co-authored by Marc Grossman, O.D., L.Ac. Studies show patients can reduce their eye pressure by five to seven millimeters with an improved diet and supplement program. In general, a diet high in betacarotene, vitamins C and E, and sulfur-bearing amino acids are recommended. Foods containing those nutrients include garlic, onions, beans, spinach, celery, turnips, yellow and orange vegetables, green leafy vegetables, seaweed, apples, oranges and tomatoes.
Daily Juicing (organic if possible) – 1 pint per day minimum. Up to 2-8 pints per day for healing. Vegetables used should be mostly greens.
Drink lots of water - 8-10 glasses of purified water. Avoid carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. They can actually dehydrate your eyes.
Manage your stress - meditate, take a walk in nature, practice yoga, visualization techniques or prayer on a daily basis.
Exercise daily - do at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. Walking and swimming are two excellent forms of exercise.
Eye exercises can help to bring energy and blood to the eyes, thereby helping to drain away toxins or congestion to the eyes.
Avoid foods to which you are allergic: a study of 113 patients with chronic simple glaucoma showed immediate IOP increases of up to 20 millimeters when they were exposed to foods in to which they were allergic. Manage stress. Take up meditation, yoga, tai chi, or any practice that helps you relax. Some consider glaucoma a stress related condition.