New research presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting last week revealed that acupuncture can dramatically reduce eye pressure (intraocular pressure). The study, titled Electro-acupuncture to decrease intraocular pressure in Rhesus monkeys with chronic glaucoma, was performed by scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. Dr. Cantwell was the lead researcher and she was at ARVO to present the results.
Dr. Cantwell explained that a single treatment of electro-acupuncture applied consistent with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles can decrease the intraocular pressure in monkeys with glaucoma for at least two days. The eye pressure reduction was more than 50%! The baseline eye pressure was 41.1 mmHg and the eye pressure after after acupuncture treatment was 20.9 mmHg on average. Primates are, of course, much closer to humans than mice, rats or rabbits. Therefore, I expect this research will apply to humans.
Dr. Cantwell further explained that they used two different meridian systems for treatment groups in the study. Experimental group A (EA-A) received treatment in the liver-gallbladder meridians (points bilaterally: Liver 3 - Gall Bladder 1, Gall bladder 34 - Gall Bladder 37). Experimental group B (EA-B) received treatment in the stomach-spleen meridians (points bilaterally: Spleen 2 - Stomach 7, Spleen 6 - Spleen10). Due to the type of glaucoma the monkeys have, the stomach-spleen treatment was more effective. However, Dr. Cantwell feels that the liver-gallbladder acupuncture treatment approach might be the more effective one for the common types of glaucoma found in most people. She emphasized that the specific meridian used was not of as much interest as the main result - the fact that acupuncture was able to reduce IOP so dramatically and for such an extended period of time in a controlled scientific study.
The full abstract is reproduced below:
Electro-acupuncture to decrease intraocular pressure in Rhesus monkeys with chronic glaucoma
S.L. Cantwell(2), D.E. Brooks(1), H. Xi(e2), H.L. Sapp(1)
1) Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
2) Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32669
Purpose: To investigate electro-acupuncture (EA) as a therapeutic option for treatment of glaucoma utilizing two different acupuncture patterns of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).
Methods: Twelve male rhesus monkeys which have previously undergone Argon laser photocoagulation of the trabecular meshwork in one eye (OD) to produce an elevation in intraocular pressure (IOP) were used. They were sedated with ketamine and randomly divided into three groups: i) control (no treatment), ii) EA-A (points bilaterally: Liver 3 - Gall Bladder 1, Gall bladder 34 - Gall Bladder 37), and iii) EA-B (points bilaterally: Spleen 2 - Stomach 7, Spleen 6 - Spleen10). EA was applied one time for 30 minutes at 20 Hz. A blinded observer measured the IOP of each eye at times: 1) pre-treatment, 2) one hour after treatment, then 24, 48 and 72 hours post treatment.
Results: The IOP of the glaucomatous eyes significantly decreased to less than half the baseline IOP (baseline mean ± SD: 41.1±8.3 mmHg) in the EA-B group at one hour post treatment (20.9±3.3 mmHg, p<0.05). The IOP of the glaucoma eyes in EA-B was also significantly lower at 24 hours (26.6±9.3 mmHg) and 48 hours (27.9±3.8 mmHg), but was not significantly different by 72 hours (32.6±7.1 mmHg). In EA-A group, there was a variable effect with a larger standard deviation (1 hr: 52.6±14.5 mmHg; 24h: 47.4±7.8 mmHg; 48h: 52.7±11.7 mmHg; 72h: 54.3±9.1 mmHg) and no difference in IOP from baseline (54.4±5.0 mmHg). The OD IOP in the control group did not differ from baseline (45.2±6.6 mmHg) at any time period. No significant difference compared to baseline (15.8±3.5 mmHg) was detected in IOP of the normal eyes (OS) of any treatment group.
Conclusions: Electro-acupuncture applied consistent with TCVM principles can decrease the intraocular pressure in glaucomatous monkey eyes for at least two days in a research setting. It should be further investigated as a therapeutic option for some types of glaucoma.