TCM Modalities May Be Useful in Treating Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a class of genetic conditions that results in the gradual degeneration of the retina. It is marked by progressive tunnel vision (peripheral vision loss) and night blindness.

Eventually, this disease leads to loss of day vision and loss of color perception, especially of the color blue. Most of sufferers of RP become legally blind before reaching the age of 60.

The extensiveness of RP is around 1: 4000 with about 1.5 million cases throughout the world, at present. In the West, this disease is the greatest cause of blindness in individuals below the age of 70. No one knows what really causes RP. It is a rare condition and can be inherited.

Since retinitis pigmentosa is a condition with an unknown cause, no specific type of treatment has been created against it. A lot of treatments have been tried over the years the years to address it with very few good results. These include:

-Immunomodulation therapy

-Pharmaceutical drugs: methyl sulfoxide, vasodilators, steroids

-Surgery: retinal pigment epithelium transplants, fetal neuroretinal cell transplants, placental extract injection, muscle transplants, cervical sympathectomy

-Electrical stimulation


-Oxygen therapy: ozone, HBO

-Nutritional supplements: coenzyme Q10, amino acids, digestive enzymes, lutein, essential fatty acids, vitamin B complex, vitamin B6, B-carotene, and vitamins A and E.

-Diet changes: arginine (low protein) diet for gyrate atrophy, green leafy vegetables(phytol) for Refsum disease; and avoidance of food high in animal fat and dairy products (phytannic acid)

-Use of cytokines and growth factors for treating RP is still in experimental. One of the most promising treatments is gene therapy but it is unclear whether manipulating the endogenous gene expression or introducing a normal copy of a defective gene is the best approach. It may take several years of clinical human experiments to see if they are good enough for most RP sufferers.

-TCM: medical scientists in China have performed clinical experiments since the 1960s to see how effective Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is on RP patients. Chinese herbs and acupuncture were used in San Diego in the trials and have led to very positive results including visual field expansion and visual acuity improvement.

-Electroretinogram: this helps boost the amplitudes of summed OPs, improvements in the 30Hz flicker index response times were observed.

A study done in Austria has time and time again showed that acupuncture can result in a significant increase in blood circulation velocity in the patient’s supratrochlear artery. Though TCM’s potency remains to be established in further, clinical and better designed trials, it is safe to say that TCM is a very good treatment option that should be tried and explored more by medical researchers.

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