Low Vision Treatment FAQ

An Acupuncture Program that Focuses on Better Vision

Macular Degeneration | Glaucoma | Diabetic Retinopathy | Retinitis Pigmentosa

I know that acupuncture can relieve pain, but I’ve never heard that acupuncture can help improve low vision. Is it true?

It is true. The Chinese have had undeniable success using acupuncture for thousands of years to alleviate hundreds of medical conditions. In the last few decades we have seen some clinical effectiveness in low vision improvement in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Although the exact mechanism for how the improvement occurs is unknown, it is suspected that stimulation of certain acupuncture points, which are at key locations along specific meridians, leads to activation of the visual cortex in the brain, which, in turns, causes improvement in low vision.

Has this approach been scientifically demonstrated?

Yes. In 1998 scientists from the University of California at Irvine conducted a study (Cho et al.) which demonstrated the connection between acupoints and the brain, and in 2005 researchers in Medical University of Graz, Austria, showed similar results with lasers (Litscher et al.). By using fMRI, these scientists noted activation of the visual cortex as a result of using acupuncture and laser acupuncture to stimulate selected foot points that have been known to the Chinese for thousands of years as a treatment for vision disorders. The studies only proved the connection, but did not explain how stimulation of a specific point on the foot triggers activity in the part of the brain that controls vision.

What kinds of modalities do you use to treat low-vision disorders?

We combine Dr. John Boel’s Danish acupuncture technique and the low-intensity LED light therapy as our unique “HanLing Low-Vsion Treatment Protocol”. Often Chinese herbal medicine and American functional medicine are also prescribed together in order to achieve the best possible results.

What is the Danish acupuncture technique and its background?

Dr. John Boel and his son, two Danish acupuncturists, have used their unique technique to treat eye disorders of over 6,000 patients since 1987. Often even blind cases with miraculous recovery were seen in their clinic in the town of Aulum in western Denmark. In 2004 Steve interned under Dr. Boel to learn this special technique that Dr. Boel fondly called “Acupuncture 2000”.

What is the low-intensity LED light therapy?

Dr. Harry Whelan, a professor of neurology at Medical College of Wisconsin, first investigated the application of a LED light device to a damaged retina and found the light can restore the lost sight. Dr. Whelan used a LED device called WARP-10 from Quantum Devices of Wisconsin, which originally was developed under a contract for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and NASA to research in wound healing, pain relief, and promotion of local blood circulation. The sicientists have discovered the cells exposed to near-infrared light from LEDs grow 150% to 200% faster with the intensity of light only provided by WARP-10 technology. A daily dose of this intensity of light is thought to stimulate the basic energy process of the mitochondria (cell’s energy factory) of each cell to support the healing process. We at HanLIng clinic take the advantage of this 21st century technology to aid our low-vision patients in conjunction with the Danish acupuncture to heal eyes fast and effectively.

Is the LED light therapy safe to the eyes?

Dr. Whelan has obtained a clearance letter from FDA in February 2004 stating that application of low-intensity LED light is a “non-significant risk (NSR)” and he had conducted a 2008 study with human subjects on diabetic maculopathy and found no side-effects with the light therapy. You are welcome to call our Center for a copy of this FDA’s NSR letter.

What kind of disorders can benefit from this treatment?

Specific eye diseases that may be helped are:

  • Dry Macular Degeneration (Dry AMD)
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy (diabetes eyes)
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (tunnel vision)
  • Visual field loss from stroke

What can I expect from your treatments?

Acupuncture is not a miracle cure for any eye diseases, and there is no guarantee for effectiveness. The modalities we use have been proven to be empirically effective in Europe and Japan. Patients must understand that it takes time to improve vision. Some patients are able to see improvement from treatment to treatment. Some patients need to wait 4-6 weeks to see if anything improves. Some patients have minor improvement in their sight, while others experience dramatic improvement. It generally depends on the patient’s age, history, and health conditions.

What are the treatment procedures?

To begin, a patient starts with two treatments a day for 10 days over a period of two weeks. Each treatment takes approximately 30 minutes. There is a one-hour break between two treatments given in one day. After the initial two weeks of sessions (20 treatments), there are two possible outcomes:

  1. Vision is improved. If the patient lives locally then the treatment continues the following week (3rd week) for two days with two treatments per day. Then during the 4th week, the patient continues with one day (two treatments) after which treatment gradually becomes less frequent and is considered maintenance. If the best results are reached, then we treat one day (two treatments) per month to maintain results. If patients are from out of the state, then we encourage the repeat of the 2-week program once every 3 months to maintain the rejuvanating effect.
  2. No change. Wait 4-6 weeks and see if something changes. If eyesight improves, then treatments continue as above. If eyesight is not better we are sorry to say that acupuncture is most likely not an approach that will help the patient’s vision.

Why is it necessary to initially have two treatments per day for two weeks?

Clinical data indicate that two treatments per day is more effective and that two weeks of intensive treatments renders dramatically better results than only one week.

How many and where are the needles inserted?

The number of needles used for a low vision patient will vary from 5-15. All needles are placed on the hands, the feet, and the forehead. No needles are inserted close to the eyes. There are no known negative side effects from this treatment.

How do I know whether my vision has improved? 

We suggest that patients see their eye specialists to measure how much vision really has improved.

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