Alternative and Chinese Medicine Treatments For Macular Degeneration


What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a common cause of irreversible blindness in America, where millions of people over the age of 65 are suffering the effects of this condition. It is a slow progressive disease that affects the central area of the retina called the macula. This is the location of the retina responsible for central vision or the vision which gives us the greatest detail in our sight.*1 Loss of central vision (or fogginess) occurs, straight lines may appear crooked, shapes seem blurry and faces distorted, but this rarely produces total blindness because the peripheral vision is not affected. Conventional western medicine has no effective treatment for this condition although they do offer medications and laser procedures, although these do not offer lasting effects.

There is a higher incidence of macular degeneration with hypertension, arteriosclerotic vascular disease and diabetes. Some macular degeneration occurs at a younger age due to heredity.

There are several types of macular degeneration. The two common types described are the dry and wet types. Ninety percent of people with ARMD have the dry type which consists of small yellow spots which appear under the macula these spots are called “drusen” (small wart like growth). The drusen slowly damage the macular cells and vision loss results. Only ten percent seen with the dry type deteriorate and progress into the wet type.*2 In the wet type new blood vessels grow abnormally to nourish the area. These are commonly frail and are prone to leak out causing hemorrhaging and are very damaging to the macula, causing a detachment of the retina with loss of vision. This is where laser surgery is used to patch up the vessels, but it can only be patched so much.

Chinese medicine works to repair the integrity of the whole structure and it has been highly effective at doing so. In Chinese medicine, many patterns are seen with ARMD. These patterns once diagnosed and treated with acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition offer far more hope than the conventional medicine route.*3

The most common treatment principle for treating eye diseases in Chinese medicine is to nourish the kidney and spleen in order to replenish the vital qi and blood. Addressing the causative root would be to nourish the spleen and strengthening the kidneys. Then activate the blood circulation in order to resolve blood stagnation is treating the branch or giving a temporary solution.*4

ARMD (wet and dry) is often seen as yin exhaustion within the body. The yin-aspect of the vision is the central vision, where the peripheral vision is seen as more yang. When the central vision begins to deteriorate, it is seen as a depletion or “burn-out” of kidney and liver yin. Using yin nourishing Chinese herbs work very effectively.

In the cases of wet ARMD, the bleeding vessels must be stopped first then the eyes can be restored yin nourishment. Replenishing the yin takes longer (6-12 months) than replenishing yang-qi.*5

Recent research into macular degeneration has shown progressive free radical damage to the blood vessels. Due to this free radical damage, several types of anti-oxidants are nutritionally suggested. The most effective one is the zeaxanthan, rather than lutein in this case. Of course diets full of fruits and vegetables are important since vitamin A (beta-carotine) is highly utilized by the eyes. Also, staying away from fat clogging artery type foods will benefit the eyes as well as the whole body. So, limit your dietary fat and cholesterol intake as well as exercise regularly, stop smoking, limit your intake of alcohol and watch your weight and blood pressure. Recent peer-reviewed studies strongly suggest that Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Lipoic Acid greatly enhance nutrient cellular delivery, while providing increased ATP energy and a sense of well being in most people. This data was confirmed in an Italian study that found a combination of Acetyl-L-Carnitine, CoQ10 and Fish Oils actually reversed some of the physical manifestations of AMD.*6

One more therapy that has proven helpful and appears hopeful for many with macular degeneration is micro-current therapy. According to Edward C. Kondrot, MD author of Micro-current Stimulation: Miracle Eye Cure; it can be a miracle cure for thousands of people who suffer from the disability of macular degeneration. It can change the life and sight of many people. He started with a small study of 10 patients, 68% of them had remarkable vision improvements. There are micro-current machines available for purchase to use at home for those who have begun to lose their vision. Everyday use of micro-current therapy on your eyes, has shown vision improvement.*7

Dr. Eliot Kaplan, Optometrist in Mill Valley, CA has early detection methods to catch this degenerative eye disease. Working together, Dr. Kaplan and I are hoping to make available to the large group of baby boomers now entering the ages of 60 and beyond, early detection and alternative treatments.

If you would like to discuss this issue with me further, please call and make an appointment at my office.

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*1 Corporate Vision Consulting web newsletter
*2 Notal Vision, AMD, National Eye Institute
*3 Scott, Julian, Acupuncture For the Eyes, pub. Eastland Press2005
*4 Rosenfarb, Andy, L. Ac., Healing your eyes with Chinese Medicine, pub. North Atlantic Books 2007
*5 Rosenfarb, Andy, L. Ac., Healing Your Eyes with Chinese Medicine,pub. North Atlantic Books 2007
*6 Healing the Eye and Wellness Newsletter, Kondrot, Edward, MD, October 2007
*7 Kondrot, Edward, MD, Micro-current Stimulation; Miracle Eye Cure, pub. Nutritional Research Press2000