Doctors take an eastern medical approach for eye diseases, eye strain

Photo by Axel Naud

Two Lower Mainland eye doctors who have backgrounds in Chinese medicine say they are concerned with the increase in eye strain conditions and diseases they have seen in their patients due to excessive use of screens.

Cheryl Wang has been practising 16 years in acupuncture, and six years in micro-acupuncture. Micro-acupuncture is a relatively new acupuncture system that involves 48 acupuncture points located only in the hands and feet, and is generally not associated with any other acupuncture system. It’s used for a variety of health conditions and is effective for treating pain. She points out that Western eye doctors are able to see the physical detailed conditions inside the eyes, such as swelling, bleeding, macular holes, retinal tearing and scar tissue.

According to Bright Focus Foundation, an American non-profit organization that supports research to end Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, the number of people living with macular degeneration is expected to reach 196 million worldwide by 2020 and increase to 288 million by 2040; 60.5 million had glaucoma in 2010. Given the aging of the world’s population, this number may increase to almost 80 million by 2020. Wang feels there will be more need for the micro-acupuncture treatments.

Screen syndromes and strains

She is seeing more of the “Computer Eye Syndrome” or “Digital Eye Strain,” specifically in the younger generation who are spending more time in front of screens like cell phones, tablets, computers and televisions.

“We have started seeing more eye disorders such as eye fatigue, dry eyes, tearing eyes, eye inflammation, blurred vision, and nearsightedness which [is] caused by the blue lights from these electronic screens,” she says.

She points out that these disorders are different from degenerative eye diseases. But if ignored, all these symptoms will eventually lead to retinal damage and eventually vision loss.

Andrew Lin, a registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist, also sees the effects of excessive screen time in the younger generation, causing a lot of damage in their retina and macula, noting there are more macular degeneration cases he has seen. But he’s indicated there are other influences on a person’s vision.

“In Chinese Medicine, there are many organs that have a direct influence on your vision, especially the liver. Which is very common as a lot of patients who suffer from vision loss may be on some kind of medication that is very toxic to the liver,” explains Lin.

He feels it’s important to address the eye strain due to increased screen time.

“It can cause a lot of harm and damage to the rod and cone cells in your retina. In the future this may lead to a rise in age-related macular degeneration epidemic,” he says.

Macular degeneration has increased slightly more than other eye diseases like glaucoma. While macular degeneration is impossible to cure, micro-acupuncture combined with other treatments can slow down or stop the progression and improve vision, Wang says.

She says micro-acupuncture can treat macular dystrophy or macular edema, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, to name a few. It can’t cure any of these diseases, but can be an effective treatment for most diseases.

Treating the body as a whole

Lin says his eastern medicine approach contrasts to the western counterpart.

“We do not see the eye as a separate organ but rather we treat the body as a whole. We use Chinese herbs, micro current stimulation, electrical stimulation and the micro-acupuncture system to stimulate the optic nerve to deliver more blood flow to the retina and the macula,” he says.

Seeing more clearly

Like Wang, Lin’s patients have their vision tested by their Ophthalmologist or their Optometrist before he starts his treatment. After a series of treatments, Lin re-tests them and checks for measurable improvements in his patients.

Dr. Cheryl Wang, micro-acupuncturist. | Photo courtesy of Dr. Cheryl Wang

“John Hopkins University had done a study on this ophthalmic micro-acupuncture system for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, which is an irreversible degenerative condition, and has shown 50 percent improvement in all the subjects in that study,” he says.

Wang also noticed patients’ improvement in their vision after she has treated them.

Some of her patients say street lights are no longer distorted, they are able to drive again when their eye doctor said they wouldn’t, there is a reduction or elimination of swelling, no more dry eyes and no more progression since the treatment.

She also recommends her patients see their eye doctors to get tested again after her treatments. Most patients see their eye doctors regularly after their initial diagnosis.

“Most patients do not even know there are alternative treatments out there. Some patients heard about the treatment but their eye doctors would tell them not to ‘waste’ their money because they do not believe there is any alternative treatment that is effective,” she says.

Wang has noticed an increase of patients for her services, in a “a tiny” fraction of people who already have vision diseases.  

Lin has trained with the world’s top eye specialists like Dr. Andy Rosenfarb helping patients with various forms of degenerative eye conditions. He had been in general practice for four years before meeting his mentor Dr. Rosenfarb, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist based in New Jersey. Dr. Rosenfarb is the pioneer of Ophthalmic Acupuncture, Lin says.

“It really interested me because he was helping patients with various degenerative eye conditions regain lost vision and preserve it long term. Especially conditions that conventional medicine has very little solution to. I knew right away this was a path I wanted to embark on,” says Lin.

Lin will be speaking at the Vancouver Health Show on Oct. 28 about The Effects of Screen Time & Eye Health. For more information, visit