Xerophthalmia, also called the “dry eye syndrome”, occurs in a situation when lacrimal glands do not produce the satisfactory amount of tears. Treatment offered by mainstream medicine is often limited to applying “artificial teardrops”, which is merely the alleviation of symptoms. If the reason for disorder is A vitamin deficiency, then its supplementation is applied. When illness leads to the corneal ulceration, surgical intervention is inevitable. Taking the above into consideration, patients relatively often look for help of complementary and alternative therapies, among which acupuncture has the prominent position due to its effectiveness.
In 2011 the then existing status of trials over the effectiveness of acupuncture in dry eye syndrome treatment was summarised(source)1. For the purposes of making this review six randomized controlled clinical trails were taken into account. Despite the fact that Edzard Ernst, notorious opponent of acupuncture, was among the authors, on the basis of the presented data they had to admit that
- Compared with applying artificial teardrops, acupuncture significantly better improves:
tear film break-up time (time till the occurrence of dry place in the cornea after twinkling)
Schirmer’s test’s results (showing the tear production rate)
the region of cornea fluorescent staining
Evidence concerning the efficiency of acupuncture added to artificial teardrops application is not consistent, however most trials reveal the decrease in frequency of artificial teardrops application.
Of course the Authors pointed out numerous reservations concerning trials, which allowed them to conclude their review stating merely that acupuncture’s efficiency is limited and further trials are required.
Shortly after publishing this review, the results of extensive multi-centre randomized clinical trial were issued, comparing the effectiveness of acupuncture and the application of artificial teardrops in dry eye syndrome treatment (source)2. Acupuncture turned out to be equally efficient as standard treatment. What is more, the positive effect of acupuncture maintained for the period of eight weeks after the completion of therapy. Also, tear film break-up time was substantially longer after the therapy in the group undergoing acupuncture treatment.
1 Lee MS, Shin BC, Choi TY, Ernst E. “Acupuncture for treating dry eye: a systematic review.” Acta Ophthalmol. 2011 Mar;89(2):101-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-3768.2009.01855.x.
2 Kim TH, Kang JW, Kim KH, Kang KW, Shin MS, Jung SY, Kim AR, Jung HJ, Choi JB, Hong KE, Lee SD, Choi SM. “Acupuncture for the treatment of dry eye: a multicenter randomised controlled trial with active comparison intervention (artificial teardrops)” PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36638. doi:0.1371/journal.pone.0036638. Epub 2012 May 17.