Chronic open-angle glaucoma is a very common condition affecting about 3 million Americans. It can be successfully treated with nutrition, acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In chronic open-angle glaucoma, the intraocular pressure (IOP) gradually increases because the eye’s drainage canals have gradually become congested. This build-up of fluid in the eyes can eventually damage the retina and optic nerve. Early glaucoma can be easily detected with regular eye exams.

In the early stages, the person will usually be unaware of increasing IOP.
Often, by the time open-angle glaucoma progresses, some vision loss may be
present whereas conventional medicine will usually recommend eye drops.
The drops are used to lower the IOP in an attempt to keep the eye pressure down.
The objective of the medication is to lower the IOP as to not cause damage
to the optic nerve or retina and, thus, preserve vision. Many patients using
these eye drops report that the drops burn and irritate their eyes and causing
blurry vision. So conventional medicine offers a solution to lower the IOP,
where the side-effects of the medication may be decreased vision… go figure?

The TCM classics say that in most cases chronic open angle glaucoma falls under
liver-kidney yin deficiency with liver yang rising. Acupuncture points are
suggested to sedate the liver and stomach channels. In my experience, this is
most often the correct treatment for acute closed-angle glaucoma, NOT chronic
open-angle glaucoma. Of course, you will always want to do your TCM evaluation
(tongue, pulse, four-pillar, etc.) to be certain of the dominant pattern. I
have personally found that most cases of open-angle glaucoma are due to a
weak/deficient Gall Bladder and Kidney. This pattern is often coupled with an
underlying Yang weakness.

Through using the principles of Chinese medicine, we can determine the origins
of most diseases. In many cases, we can help the patient recover from many
forms of illness. The TCM condition(s) of vision loss should first be
distinguished with Yin-Yang theory. Looking at the Taiji Yin-Yang symbol, we
can learn a lot about the nature of vision loss and how to treat it. Conditions
like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy will usually manifest with peripheral
vision loss.
The Yin aspect of the Taiji symbol mimics a loss of peripheral
vision (dark outer and bright inner); therefore, the condition must be yin
dominant and yang deficient. In cases like macular degeneration where the
central vision is lost, the opposite condition is present. There is brightness
on the periphery and darkness in the center. This means that the condition must
be of a yang nature with yin deficiency. Please take a minute to observe this
as it is a very simple yet important consideration into understanding the TCM
pathogenesis of central and peripheral vision loss. Once this has been
determined, you can do your other TCM exams to determine the channels and
organs are being most affected.

In terms of treatment with acupuncture, we tend to treat the UB, ST and GB channels.
GB being a yang channel delivers the Yang-Qi from the liver to the upper body
and eyes. The UB is the yang channel of the water element that delivers the
Yang-Qi of the kidney to the upper body and eyes. Stomach channel points are
also important to deliver the spleen nutritive Yang-Qi to the eyes.
A basic point prescription for Gall Bladder & Kidney weakness is:


GB-1 (local), GB- 20 (move Qi to the eyes), GB-21 (move Qi in GB), GB-30
(move Qi in GB), GB-37 (special eye point), GB-40 (source), GB-43
(tonification), UB-2 (local), UB-64 (source), UB-67 (tonification)
St-2 (local), St-36 (horray), St-41 (tonification)

Extra Glaucoma points:

Extra Glaucoma #1
– I cun superior to SJ-23; and one finger-width lateral. In the tender spot,
needle posterior until a strong “de-Qi” sensation is obtained.

Extra Glaucoma #2
– ½ cun anterior to St-5; needle superior in tender area as to obtain a strong
“de-Qi” sensation.

Eye Exercises to Reduce IOP – Using the middle finger apply
pressure below the eyeball, pressing in and up for 10 second, then rest for 10 seconds.
Do this 3 times in a row 3 times each day.

As far as Chinese herb formulas go, for this pattern we usually utilize traditional
formulas: Wen Dan Tang, You Gui Wan, Ming Mu and/or others.
The therapeutic goal is to mobilize the Qi and Yang of
the Kidney, Stomach, and Gall Bladder. Sometimes I will add Er Chen Tang
to help clear a path for the clear-yang to ascend to the eyes.

Moxa is also a great adjunctive therapy for glaucoma patients presenting with
this kind of deficiency pattern. Use moxa on St-36, CV-12, UB-20, UB- 19,
UB-22, and UB-23. Massaging clove oil or cinnamon oil into the GB and UB
meridians can also be another effective way of activating the Yang-Qi in the

Very briefly, in terms of functional medicine, I have found that chronic
open-angle glaucoma is due to too low oxidation (Qi and yang deficiency) and
diminished ATP cellular output (also Qi and yang deficiency). Using oxidants
(not anti-oxidants) will help stimulate the metabolism and move the fluids in
the eye, which may lower the IOP. Anti-oxidants slow down the fast -catabolic
metabolism which we do not want to do. This may contradict most naturopathic
and nutritional “antioxidant eye protocols.” A high dose of cod-liver oil
(6000-9000 iu/day) is a great oxidant to help patients with open-angle
glaucoma. Sterol fats like milk, cream, butter, cheese, etc. can potentially
make this condition much worse.

Some herbs that can help boost ATP (Qi) production for open-angle glaucoma are
Siberian Ginseng root, Astragalus, Ginkgo Biloba, Cat’s Claw, Capsicum, Colus
Forscholi and Clove. These boost the Qi to increase circulation of the stagnant
fluid in the eye. Once catabolic activity (Yang-Qi) is activated, the fluid may
begin to drain through the eye, lowering the IOP and potentially lowering the
risk of optic nerve and retinal degeneration.




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