Macular Degeneration and Micro-Acupuncture
Macular degeneration (MD), is a disease that makes it difficult for sufferers to read or even clearly identify people's faces. Macular degeneration is also the leading cause of partial or total blindness in people over age 50.
Macular degeneration affects about 13 million people in this country and, until recently, there have been very few non-surgical treatments available in the United States.
Gail Brent, a licensed acupuncturist based in San Diego, is one of a handful of practitioners who has been trained in a relatively new procedure called Micro Acupuncture.
In 1984, Danish physician Dr. Freddy Dahlgren, along with Dr. Per Otte, conducted research that ultimately resulted in the discovery of Micro Acupuncture, a procedure that successfully improved eye health for those suffering from eye diseases such as MD, glaucoma, cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy.
Together, Otte and Dahlgren have treated over 5,000 patients in Europe using Micro Acupuncture. Otte has since moved to the United States and opened a clinic in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.
According to his statistics, 98 percent of people who are treated for macular degeneration with Micro Acupuncture may see a marked improvement in their vision.
Macular Degeneration - Definition
So what exactly is macular degeneration? The Macular Degeneration Foundation, a charitable medical research and educational organization, describes it this way, Your retina contains an extraordinary photosensitive array of cells that line the back of your eye. The light falling onto these cells in the retina is transformed into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain centers that process and interpret them.
The most concentrated collection of photosensitive cells in your retina, including those that enable critical color and fine detail vision, are found in the Bulls-Eye center zone in an area called the macula.
Macular degeneration is the name given to that group of diseases that causes sight-sensing cells in the macular zone of the retina to malfunction or lose function and results in debilitating loss of vital central or detail vision.
There are two types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Most people develop the dry type. Yellowish deposits called drusen accumulate beneath the retina causing it to lose some of its function and causing the macula to lose sensitivity to light.
Dry macular degeneration rarely results in total blindness. Wet macular degeneration, also referred to as choroidal neovascularization, subretinal neovascularization, exudative or disciform degeneration, affects about 10 percent of those with MD and is more severe.
It is caused by the growth of new blood vessels under the macula. When the blood vessels leak, they cause nearby cells to weaken resulting in the destruction of nerve tissue. At first, vision is distorted and blurred. Eventually, sometimes in just a matter of weeks, total or partial blindness occurs.
Brent, who has been in practice for six years, is certified by Otte to perform Micro Acupuncture treatments. When a patient sees Brent for MD, they are first given a visual acuity test and then a visual field scan that determines the amount of damage to the macula. The test is painless and does not require dilation eye drops.
Using a visual field scanning machine, Brent has the patient focus on a central point while lights, varying in intensity, are flashed on a screen inside the machine. This test produces a map of the patient's vision that allows Brent to assess the level of degeneration in the macula. From here, she can determine the level of treatment required.
I don't use the machine for diagnosis. The results are used as a reference point from which to start, Brent said.
The acupuncture points for eye diseases outlined by the Micro Acupuncture procedure are located in the palms of the hands, bottoms of the feet and in the forehead. Each treatment lasts about 20 minutes. The first phase of the procedure consists of five treatments and then the patient is re-evaluated by doing another visual field scan.
After five treatments, if there is any [positive] change [in the visual field scan], then I know I can help the patient, Brent explained.
Once a patient has completed the first phase of the procedure and has noticed an improvement in his or her vision, treatment continues until progress plateaus or the patient is satisfied with the level of improvement and is ready to stop. Brent cautions that Micro Acupuncture is not a cure.
However, she is quick to note that when the procedure is effective, it improves the vision and prevents further degeneration. It is so rewarding for me to see a patient¹s quality of life improve.
Gail Brent, L.Ac., can be reached at 619-276-3661. For more information on Micro Acupuncture visit www.microacupuncture.com