Micro-Acupuncture for Age Related Macular Degeneration
Micro-Acupuncture for Age Related Macular Degeneration
This is an account of my experience with ARMD
These headlines look dramatic but, in the nature of the beast, they are eye catching but not quite accurate. As ever if one got past the headline the copy inside was much clearer. They tell about my fellow singer Josie Tomlin and I going to the USA for micro-acupuncture. I can’t stress enough that the treatment I had is not a cure but for some sufferers it can provide a temporary improvement in their condition.
How did I get to the point of going to the United States for treatment for my ARMD?
I was diagnosed with it in March 2003. Before then I had noticed, when driving, the tail lights of vehicles some distance in front appeared double. For my work as a freelance video editor I had experienced no problems.
In October 2002 I went to my optician for my bi-annual check up. On the eye chart my right eye showed no problem but when it came to my left eye I noticed the letters seemed to bend and go off the horizontal. When I mentioned this the optician leapt into action and examined the backs of my eyes.. He contacted my GP and a few months later I was seeing the specialist‘s registrar at my local hospital. She pronounced that I had ARMD and explained the nature of the problem. She hoped it would be possible to delay the final outcome for many years. It is difficult when you are given such news to remember everything you are told. She mentioned a product which could be bought in a health food shop which it was believed may help, but I couldn‘t remember what it was.
It was only when I got home that I was hit totally by the news. It was a shock as my eyes are important for my work in TV.
I sing in a Selby Abbey choir and as it was the beginning of Lent and everything we sang about spoke was of going into darkness. I was feeling quite bad after the pre-service practice, and by the end of the service I was shaking and feeling quite frightened. Luckily I was able to quickly get over that and now am pragmatic about my fate. An appointment was made to photograph the backs of my eyes, and a telephone number was given for me to call in the event of major changes happening to my sight. I had the pictures taken and then sat back waiting to find out what happens next. After a couple of months I rang the hospital to check on follow ups only to be told by the specialist’s secretary that I had been discharged. I was not impressed by that lack of communication
In the way of these things I’d never heard of ARMD until I was diagnosed, and then I start to discover people I knew who suffer from it. It was in converstion with Josie that I discovered that she had it. She also said she took lutein tablets. That reminded me of what the registrar had said..
I went for a second opinion and the specialist there said that the only proved treatment was high dose vitamins. At this time it was becoming clear that both eyes were affected but it was too soon to define if they were going to be wet. With these two different bits of advice I decided to alternate, with lutein in the morning and the vitamins at night.
I saw in the Macular Disease Society magazine that Addenbrookes hospital was doing some research and wanted volunteers so contacted them. I mentioned that I had these two different bits of advice and was told they were both right. I lived too far from Cambridge to participate.
I obviously searched the web after my friend told me of a treatment called micro-acupuncture. Here claims were made for improvements in vision for many patients. They didn’t claim a cure, nor that everybody could benefit, but it was more than was on offer from conventional medicine. Unfortunately this was only available in the USA and would set me back a few thousand pounds by the time I’d flown out, stayed in a hotel. and paid for the treatment.
In the mean time my vision was slowly changing and reading music became difficult as the notes seemed to move up and down on the staves causing me to sing a few wrong notes! My friend in the choir eventually went to the Acupuncture Health Associates clinic in Westfield New Jersey. When she returned she was excited by the results. “I can see your face”, she said. As she put it in the Evening Press, “It was as if someone had cleared my eyes out with a dustpan and brush.”
When my bi-annual check up came round in 2004 my left eye, which was the one which first revealed the problem, wasn’t too bad, not having changed a great deal, but my right eye had changed so much that I couldn’t read even the letter on the top letter on the chart. I was advised to contact the hospital, which I did. Here I had very thorough investigation, including detailed photography of my retinas. I then saw the specialist.. He told me that I had dry ARMD in my left eye, and wet occult ARMD in my right. I suppose it is marginally more acceptable to have occult as opposed to classic. I mentioned that my friend had had this acupuncture treatment and had had improved vision as a result. It would be fair to say he dismissed it out of hand as “Hearsay”. He also said on no account was I to take Lutein. A specially formulated eye compound was recommended, which I took. The different advice from various experts does make life difficult for the patient, especially as there is currently no recognized treatment.
Last December, with the dollar in our favour, I committed to going for the treatment, so in January I presented myself at the clinic. Here I met Dr. Andy Rosenfarb who is an expert in micro-acupuncture. The first things which I took were a vision field test and a conventional eye test where you read the letters off a chart.
The vision field test is like the one you take when the DVLA in Swansea want to know if you can see well enough to drive. You look at a reference in the centre of the screen and light dots of varying intensity and position are flashed up and you click a button if you see one. The results are printed out giving a graphical impression of the sensitivity across the retina..On the letter chart I could do reasonably well with my left eye but my right could only just work out a letter or two on the top line, which had 5 large letters.
I then started the acupuncture treatment.
This consisted of three sessions a day lasting about 25 minutes each. On the third day I had another vision field test. Already improvement could be seem, and I could start to make out letters on the second line of the letter chart with my right eye. The left eye showed improvement too. In practical terms I could view the TV in my hotel room without the aid of spectacles which I couldn’t do when I first arrived.
So for 10 days with a weekend break between, I had my three treatments a day. During the second week I read a railway timetable without having on my glasses The figures would have been about 16 point but even so I was rather pleased.. I also noticed that the patch which I could see in my right eye, that effect which is like a badly made neutral density filter with everything out of focus, instead of having a sharp edge had something like the penumbra, and a small hole appeared inside the main body of the patch where i could see a little detail.
On the final morning of the treatment I had another vision field test and eye test. Both eyes showed great improvement and with my right eye I could make letters out down to the third line.
My right eye still has a long way to go if it is to match my left and no claim for a cure is made. Had there been no sign of improvement detected by the second eye tests the treatment would have ended there and then.
As a supplement to the treatment and a long term commitment macro-current stimulation is recommended. This is a small electronic device which sends tiny electric pulses through the eyes to stimulate regeneration in the retina. Frankincense is recommended as a further stimulant and some physical activity to stimulate your blood circulation.
Having had the treatment my eyes are definitely improved. My right eye is still problematical but there is a very small area of sharpness in the centre of my vision. Is it worth the expense? What is your vision worth? The improvement I have seen is more than I would have received from the perceived wisdom of conventional medicine. How long will the benefit last? That is dependent on whether I can afford to return for more treatment. It is not a cure. I tend to think of it as placing me further back up the slope, delaying that time when I reach the bottom.
Dr Rosenfarb, the acupuncture practitioner has said he will come over to Britain if there is enough interest. However this would be a one off trip and follow up treatment would most probably have to be in the States.
To see a movie of my first treatment click here.
I do get asked if having the needles inserted hurts. Sometimes! The trick is to be chatting as they are inserted and you won‘t notice.
Edward Croot, U.K.