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Dry Eyes and Acupunture

Dry Eyes are such a common problem, yet difficult to […]

By Published On: 12 June 20121.6 min read

Dry Eyes are such a common problem, yet difficult to treat sometimes.  They can also be multifactorial, which means a number of things can be contributing the final outcome of dry irritated eyes.

Over the years many of us will have noticed that traditional Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture has drifted slowly into western.  This has occurred because acupuncture has proven itself a very useful treatment for many conditions, in particular chronic pain.

Acupuncture works off the principal of stimulating key points in the human anatomy, which in turn can prove to be therapeutic.

A group of doctors in the US Army ran a study recently to see whether accepted acupuncture techniques had any influence on a group dry eyes of patients.

To make sure there was no bias in the results, there was a treatment group and a control group that was given sham acupuncture – neither patient or examining doctor knew who had the “real” treatment versus the “sham” treatment.

The study was only small, possibly as a precursor to a larger study if anything positive was discovered from this small pilot study. Seventeen volunteers with documented dry eye problems were divided into two groups.  Both groups had two lots of treatments separated by at least 24 hours (8 real and 9 control).

Over six months both patient groups were examined exhaustively with multiple questionnaires and observational tests at 1 week, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months to see whether there was a difference between the two groups and ultimately looking for a significant improvement in the “real treatment” group.

What is interesting is that up to 50% of the population seeks alternative treatment options when it comes to their health so this group would be eagerly waiting to hear the conclusion of this great little study.

Unfortunately in this small sample size the acupuncture did not in anyway improve signs or symptoms of the dry eye patients.  Looks like we can strike acupuncture off our large list of dry eye treatment options!




  1. dry eye cure 13 July 2012 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Dry eyes are common problem in usa. Cause many people work on computers for long time. Acupunture is good therapy good to learn from your blog.

    • Dr Jim Kokkinakis 13 July 2012 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      I noticed our website looks like a great product for meibomian gland dysfunction. Daily warm compresses is definitely a good option for many people with this most common form of dry eye.

  2. Donna Lee 1 August 2012 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Acupuncture is a natural way to treat dry eyes. It has benefits on the mid-term outcomes related to dry eye syndrome compared with artificial tears.

    • Dr Jim Kokkinakis 1 August 2012 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      Hi Donna
      I would be very interested in seeing the studies that support your comments.

  3. Sean 12 August 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I’m an optometrist and also have a degree in acupuncture. It’s important when looking at studies in dry eyes and acupuncture to not conclude too quickly from a pilot study alone that acupuncture does not work. One cannot “strike it off your list” as you say. What you can say is that the treatment protocol employed in this study showed no significant effect but I have seen other studies that do show significant effects on TBUT and other measures outcomes . Perhaps the points chosen were incorrect? Perhaps the stimulation techniques employed were inadequate? This pilot study does not say acupuncture can’t work for dry eyes .

    • Dr Jim Kokkinakis 19 October 2013 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Sean what you say is possibly true. If you could direct me to studies that support acupuncture i would be most grateful. As an aside one of the most frustrating things we encounter in specialty dry eye management is unrelenting corneal pain. I know that significant success can be achieved using acupuncture in pain management. Is there any information in using acupuncture to manage corneal pain, or even pain in herpetic neuralgia? Lately at The Eye Practice we have been seeing an unusual number of corneal pain patients that we think has been stimulated from inappropriately treated dry eye.

  4. Marley harries 25 April 2015 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Jim … I have suffered with dry eye for over 20 years and I have been using Polygel at night and cellufresh during the day. I recently tried Lacritec but feel they have exacerbated digestive problems. unfortunately I have had debilitating setbacks the past six months with frequent severely inflamed eyes. We are now living in Melbourne and I wondered whether you could recommend a practitioner or alternatively we travel to Sydney from time to time so we could schedule in an appointment with yourself. I am multiple chemical sensitive too so even moisturiser can now trigger a painful episode. I look forward to hearing from you my landline is 03 98247046…. Marley

    • Jim Kokkinakis 11 February 2021 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      I just noticed this comment from you dated 2015! I am not sure how it slipped through.Are you still having issues with your eyes?

  5. Kyle 21 March 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Hi for 2 years I have suffered with my eyes one is worst than other I’ve seen many doctors and not had much luck . I’ve tried loads of creams drops etc I’m told I’m having allergic reactions to conjunctivitis but I don’t have that also rhumetoid arthritis specialist said no but didn’t look I have a constant blurr a lot of white gunk sore and red eye sometimes the pain is so unbearable I’m struggling to drive and the glare from lights affects my eyes. What can I do

    • Jim Kokkinakis 11 February 2021 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Kyle potentially there is a lot you can do. Where are you located? You need a practitioner that is an expert with your type of case. Its been my experience that your type of case is on average mismanaged due to lack of knowledge.

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