Acupuncture for diabetic retinopathy

Acupuncture for Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy. The eye condition that affect people with diabetes. Illustration of the retina of the eye

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. According to a 2013 study diabetic retinopathy ranks as the 5th  most common cause of visual impairment globally. To make matter worse, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that “as the incidence of diabetes gradually increases, there is the possibility that more individuals will suffer from eye complications.“

The increasing risk of visual impairment calls for effective intervention to remedy diabetic retinopathy. But this is easier said than done – conventional treatments such as vitrectomy can be risky.  Acupuncture may offer an effective and safe treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

An Overview of Diabetic Retinopathy – Definition and Causes

What is diabetic retinopathy? It is a visual impairment condition associated with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. The visual problem occurs when blood vessels in the eye are blocked due to high blood sugar levels.

In such a scenario, the body’s natural response is to maintain blood supply by forming new vessels. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels may develop abnormally or leak – hence diabetic retinopathy. There are two diagnoses of diabetic retinopathy depending on the progression of the condition.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

  1. Proliferative: This type of diabetic retinopathy is characterized by the formation of new blood vessels along the retina. However, these vessels are weak and can easily leak fluid – leading to blurry vision or even blindness. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy also increases the risk of other eye conditions such as detached retina and glaucoma.
  • Non-Proliferative: With non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the body has not formed new blood vessels in the iris. Instead, existing blood vessels swell due to blockage from excess blood sugar. The outcome of such extensive blockage is an insufficient supply of blood and leakage.

Symptoms and Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy? A medical practitioner will most likely look for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Large moving floaters in your visual field
  • Double vision
  • Distorted or blurry vision
  • Gradual loss of vision

It is also important to note that the severity of diabetes is directly related to an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. Other risk factors include tobacco use, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and uncontrolled blood sugar.

Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy – Conventional Medicine

  • Proliferative Stage: If you are diagnosed with an advanced stage of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a medical professional/eye specialist may recommend intraocular injections, vitrectomy, or laser eye treatment.
  • Non-Proliferative Stage: If you are suffering from mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the main conventional approach is to reduce risk factors – and manage blood sugar levels.

Acupuncture for Diabetic Retinopathy

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for many ailments.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been gaining increased attention in the medical industry. According to a 2014 study, acupuncture is “evolving into one of the most utilized forms of complementary integrative medicine interventions in the United States.” This growth in popularity is attributed to emerging scientific studies that prove the safety and efficacy of TCM. But what are the principles behind acupuncture treatment? How exactly does it work for diabetic retinopathy?

According to TCM and acupuncture, health problems are often associated with an energy or qi imbalance in one or more internal organs. With this in mind, an acupuncturist will look for underlying issues in addition to the retinal issues in diabetic retinopathy. What this means is that acupuncture attempts to remedy a health problem from the root cause – facilitating improved overall health.

Acupuncture treatment for diabetic retinopathy may involve needling at acupoints on the eyebrow, feet, and hands. These acupoints are located on specific energy channels (meridians) that are concurrent with certain body organs. In the case of diabetic retinopathy, acupuncture helps by maintaining proper circulation in the retina and eyes. Improved circulation leads to:

  • Delivery of necessary nutrients to the eyes
  • Mitigation of bleeding
  • Proper distribution of oxygenated blood
  • Reduced inflammation and build-up of fluid
  • Encourages regeneration of damaged cells

Centre of Balance Hamilton – How Can Our Acupuncturists Help?

Are you (or a loved one) suffering from eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy? Our highly experienced acupuncture practitioners can help you to maintain optimal eye health. The eye clinic at Centre of Balance Hamilton specialises in treatment of eye conditions. In regards to diabetic retinopathy, we utilize a tailor-made treatment program to meet your unique needs. This is because we understand that a disease manifests itself in different ways. Contact us today to book a consultation.

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Works Cited

Bourne, R. R., Stevens, G. A., White, R. A., Smith, J. L., Flaxman, S. R., Price, H., … & Pesudovs, K. (2013). Causes of vision loss worldwide, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis. The lancet global health1(6), e339-e349.

Jishun, J., & Mittelman, M. (2014). Acupuncture: past, present, and future.