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Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture for Glaucoma

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and Chinese medicine has many treatments for this common eye disorder. Gradual blockage of the outflow of aqueous humor (a frontal compartment eye fluid) is the main glaucoma cause. If enough pressure builds, blood vessels and nerve fibers can become compressed and cause irreparable damage. Any glaucoma symptom, such as loss of small areas of peripheral vision (blind spots) may result. Herbal remedies, herb-derived eye drop formulas, a combination of both, and acupuncture have shown promising results in relieving fluid pressure in the eyes.

Because fluids, which are yin in nature, tend to be downward draining, other disorders are usually present in order to cause fluid accumulation in the upper areas of the body. Yang-influenced disorders flow upward like the flames of fire in nature. In the case of glaucoma, a fire syndrome is created internally and carries fluids upward and into the eyes. This explains the glaucoma symptom of pressure build-up in the eyes. In the case of glaucoma, the cause is first thought to be internal in nature rather than environmental. Internal disorders are generally influenced by age and genetics.

For younger glaucoma sufferers (55 and under) chronic stagnation is most likely the cause of glaucoma. Fire and stagnation are closely related because things that pile and accumulate tend to heat up. Thus, stagnation can cause a fire syndrome, which may lead to upward pressure. Common stagnation syndromes include liver qi stagnation, fluid accumulation and blood stasis. Treating this glaucoma cause involves herbs to drain the fluid from the eyes as well as herbs to decrease internal fire. It is also a goal to reduce the underlying stagnation.

Glaucoma often has a different root at an older age of onset and may present a different glaucoma symptom. Declining yin essences, which is a natural part of the aging process, can cause problems for those with certain genetic factors or diseases. Yin essences can be restored with tonic herbs and foods in order to keep rising yang essences, a common glaucoma cause, in check.

Eye drop formulas account for a big portion of glaucoma treatment. In Chinese medicine, eye drop medicines are herb-derived. The most popular are pueraria flavonoids, areca seed extract and the alkaloids from erycibe. These eye drop formulas are reported to work as well or better than Western eye drop, but are unavailable to Western practitioners.

Acupuncture is also used in the Chinese treatment of glaucoma. Treatment points such as GB 20 can extinguish Wind in the eyes, which can be present as a result of Kidney yin deficiency and Liver yin rising. Other points such as KD 3, to tonify Kidney yin; UB 62 to take excess from the eyes; or KD 6 to nourish the upper body are useful in glaucoma treatment.

Oriental medicine glaucoma treatment is dependent, of course, on the specific condition of the patient and the type of glaucoma being treated.

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