One of the things people don’t tend to think of when they think of acupuncture is eye issues. After all, most of the time, except for treating perhaps pinkeye, even your general practitioner is going to send you to a specialist for eye issues. Less well known is how acupuncture can be beneficial for your eye health.
So what is acupuncture good for? As with many other chronic diseases, acupuncture can slow the progression of glaucoma1, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa2 and cataracts3. We have several case studies of patients needing fewer injections to manage their glaucoma after starting acupuncture—and more importantly a brief acupuncture session after the injections completely eliminated the post injection pain shortening the recovery from 1-2 days of downtime due to pain to just a couple of hours.
Acupuncture also enhances muscle function—even the small muscles of the eyes—so even things like slower responses to changing light levels that happen with age can be reduced with acupuncture. It also increases circulation to the eyes, speeding recovery after procedures like retinal repairs and cataract removal. Acupuncture can even help reduce chronically dry eyes!
As with anything we treat, results are best when the body gets the nutrients it needs for optimal performance and the eyes have special needs. Vitamin A supports the light receptors in the eye and protects moisture levels4. Vitamin A is found in dairy, fish and meat, especially liver. Good non-animal food sources of vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, carrots, melons, peppers, apricots, nectarines, tomatoes, mangoes and corn. It is also present in spinach, peas, parsley, pistachios, kale, broccoli, and Swiss chard, where green chlorophyll masks the carotenoid pigment. Antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene are also important for eye health and are found in many of the same foods.
While vitamin A is essential, too much is also dangerous. If you eat these foods regularly it is unlikely you need to supplement vitamin A. Still, there may be some benefits to supplementing lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene if you are having issues with eye health. Some of my most commonly recommended supplements for eye health can be found on Fullscript—but as always, we recommend speaking to your health care provider before starting any new supplements.
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1 Chen SY, Yieh FS, Liao WL, Li TC, Hsieh CL. Effect of Acupuncture on Intraocular Pressure in Glaucoma Patients: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Apr 28;2020:7208081. doi: 10.1155/2020/7208081. PMID: 32419820; PMCID: PMC7204356.
2 Bittner AK, Gould JM, Rosenfarb A, Rozanski C, Dagnelie G. A pilot study of an acupuncture protocol to improve visual function in retinitis pigmentosa patients. Clin Exp Optom. 2014 May;97(3):240-7. doi: 10.1111/cxo.12117. Epub 2013 Oct 29. PMID: 24773463; PMCID: PMC4018735.
4 Sajovic J, Meglič A, Glavač D, Markelj Š, Hawlina M, Fakin A. The Role of Vitamin A in Retinal Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 18;23(3):1014. doi: 10.3390/ijms23031014. PMID: 35162940; PMCID: PMC8835581.