From birth, we as humans change every day. We go through a complete metamorphosis from the day we are born to when we are ready to pass on, and each year as we blow out another candle on the birthday cake our bodies blow out a candle too. As modern science hasn’t quite worked out the kinks in the secret to artificial everlasting youth, we look to other sources. We can’t yet preserve ourselves in ice or transfer our conscious mind into robotic material, but we can maintain ourselves as naturally as our bodies are designed.
As we age all our parts age too; we lose the full quality of movement, memory, hearing, but perhaps the most frightening of all is vision loss. Our eyes are the instruments through which navigate our world, and when these instruments begin to deteriorate our perception of reality and the world outside does too. One of the most common types of age related eye disease is Macular Degeneration, settling in sometimes as early as 50 years old. There is no known cure yet for this disease, but there are exciting results of regained vision through regular acupuncture.
Macular Degeneration and the Eye
As we are focusing on Macular Degeneration in this article, we will begin with the Macula; a small central section of the Retina in charge of our immediate field of vision – what is right in front of us. Usually this is the sharpest and most detailed area of vision, but for those with Macular Degeneration it is the worst.
The Macula is tiny, around 5 millimetres in diameter and composed of layers of microscopic cells – but to find the absolute core of clarity in our vision we must go even smaller!
The Fovea is a small depression within the macula that “…contains specialized nerve cells that are exclusively of the type known as cones…” (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007, para. 1). These “cones” are a type of photoreceptor that the Retina only has two of; the other kind is called “Rods”.
Rods help us to see things at lower light levels, and cones let us see the world at brighter light levels and are accountable for our colour vision and fine detail. The Fovea is capable of providing such clear vision as closer to “…the centre of the macula there are no blood vessels to interfere with vision; thus, in this area, vision in bright light and colour perception are keenest…” (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007, para. 1).
Here is where our main problem lies – with Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) the body creates new blood vessels in the retina to compensate for the older and deteriorated vessels that have become blocked. These new blood vessels are fragile and prone to bleeding into the surrounding tissue; our sensitive cone photoreceptors. This is also what is known as wet macular degeneration (or neovascular) and the most severe for sufferers of AMD. As the broken blood vessels flood the delicate Fovea, our central and most focused area of vision becomes severely and rapidly distorted. Through regular acupuncture the original congested vessels are able to be cleared so that the blood can flow naturally and no new delicate vessels are grown.
The second type of macular degeneration is known as dry (or atrophic). This form of Macular Degeneration isn’t due to burst blood vessels drowning out our core vision, but instead from a build-up of drusen “…made up of lipids, a fatty protein…” (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2017, para. 1). In this case, the drusen is what clouds the Macula and warps our sight. Much like Wet Macular Degeneration, the drusen is able to be cleared away through regular acupunctural stimulation of the area.
Now that we have a better understanding of the eye and macular degeneration, it’s much easier to comprehend what’s going on in our body and how acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can help us to regulate our body’s natural energy. In part two of the Macular Degeneration series we will explore the symptoms and causes of MD, the western medical approach to treatment compared to traditional Chinese medicine.
To continue on to part two of Macular Degeneration and Acupuncture click here.
- Info-graphs courtesy of Bright Focus Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brightfocus.org/
- Encyclopædia Britannica. (2007). Macula lutea. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/macula-lutea
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2017). What Are Drusen?. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-drusen