Dry Eye Syndrome - A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What is Dry Eye Syndrome
According to the Mayo Clinic, Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for the eyes . This causes irritation of the eyes and moderate to severe discomfort.
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
Mainstream drug treatments commonly use local tears substitutes, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, hormones, and other drugs, but the effect of tears supplement for severe DED is poor. Long-term use of anti-inflammatory and immunosuppression and hormone replacement therapies can cause side effects [2, 3].
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Dry Eye Syndrome
In traditional Chinese medicine, the eyes are the sensory organ which belongs to the Liver Channel. The Liver channel ‘opens the eyes’ and is primarily responsible in nourishing the eyes by circulating Qi and Blood to them.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), all diseases involving the eye are closely related to the liver. It is also understood that the eye is nourished by all of the internal organs in the body. The lens of the eye and the pupil basically belong to the kidney, the sclera to the lungs, the arteries and veins to the heart, the top eyelid to the spleen, the bottom eyelid to the stomach, and the cornea and iris to the liver. The Spleen and Stomach also control circulation in the eyes. Therefore an imbalance in any of the internal organs may lead to eye disease.
In the case of dry eye syndrome, there are primarily two organ systems at work (i) the Liver and (ii) the Kidneys. The pathologies involved are primarily full-heat (Yang excess / Fire rising), empty-heat (Yin deficiency), Blood deficiency or a combination. In the main, however, Liver Blood & Yin Deficiency with Yang-heat rising is the most common presentation  and dry eyes are due to deficient Liver-Yin not nourishing and moistening the eyes.
In other words, from the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, systemic yin-deficiency refers to a syndrome where yin qi (energy) in the body is too weak to counterbalance yang qi, which results in malfunction of a typical set of body organs, since all organs require the correct balance of energies for harmony or proper physiological function. When yin-deficiency syndrome is encountered, the earliest manifestation of imbalance would be fluid deficiency, and dry eye symptoms may emerge from this deficiency . In addition, Blood (energy) and Yin have an interdependent relationship and it is not possible to have Liver Yin deficiency without Blood deficiency .
Research has shown that Acupuncture is an effective treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome, however it needs to be tailored to the individual patient [6,7,8].
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre our highly qualified and experienced practitioners will identify the specific pattern or patterns that are the root cause of health issue and develop a treatment program specifically designed for you. Simply call (02) 4573 0784
- Mayo Clinic (2021) Dry Eyes. URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371863 Last visited: 10/11/2021.
- Yang L, Yang Z, Yu H, Song H. Acupuncture therapy is more effective than artificial tears for dry eye syndrome: evidence based on a meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:143858.
- Xu, J., Chen, S., Hao, X., Wu, G., Wang, S., Yuan, H., Jin, Q., Sun, M., & Xie, L. (2020). Traditional Chinese medicine Xiaosheng Powder for dry eye disease: A protocol for systematic review and meta analysis. Medicine, 99(35), e22019. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000022019
- Tong L, Htoon HM, Hou A, et al. Acupuncture and herbal formulation compared with artificial tears alone: evaluation of dry eye symptoms and associated tests in randomised clinical trial. BMJ Open Ophthalmology 2018;3:e000150. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000150
Marciocia, G. (1989) The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. The Treatment of Disease with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Kim, B. H., Kim, M. H., Kang, S. H., & Nam, H. J. (2018). Optimizing acupuncture treatment for dry eye syndrome: a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 145. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2202-0
Ba J, Wu Y, Li Y, Xu D, Zhu W, Yu J. Updated meta-analysis of acupuncture for treating dry eye. Med Acupunct. 2013;25:317–327. doi: 10.1089/acu.2013.0968.
Lee MS, Shin B, Choi T, Ernst E. Acupuncture for treating dry eye: a systematic review. Acta Ophthalmol. 2011;89:101–106. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-3768.2009.01855.x.