Acupuncture is a very welcome alternative in treating anisometropic amblyopia.
Amblyopia, otherwise known as “azy eye”, is a disorder in which one eye works better than the other so that the brain uses the good eye gradually making the neural connection to the bad eye weaker. This is usually fixed by occlusion therapy or patching, that is, by making a patient wear a patch over the good eye thereby forcing the bad eye to work harder.
According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, 0.3-5% of individuals worldwide have amblyopia and about 40% of the cases are due to anisometropia, a condition by which the two eyes have unequal refractive powers or degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness. Correcting this visual error through wearing glasses and contact lenses is effective for young children but for children between 7-12, visual correction is not enough. Although patching increases the success rate among these children, many do not like this therapy and it is easy to imagine that those who undergo this therapy, experience emotional problems. Who wants to walk around with a patch on his/her eye at this age? Another disadvantage of patching is the possibility of developing reverse amblyopia, wherein the originally good eye becomes worse although improvement takes place in the other.
The study from the Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University of Hong Kong compared treatment of the amblyopic eye with patching and acupuncture. After 15 weeks of treatment an improvement was reported in both treatments, and that „Lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7% of patched eyes and 41.5% of eyes in the acupuncture group.“ Although it is obvious that the study shows that the effect of acupuncture can be considered equivalent to patching in treating amblyopia, the researchers cannot explain the mechanism underlying its success but noted that „Targeting vision-related acupoints may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds“.
The acupoints used in this study are highly recommendable for other clinical setups. One must also bear in mind that there are „differences…among acupuncturists“ in terms of „manipulation modes“ and „treatment styles“, according to the reseachers. But if acupuncture works, why not?