Treating Retinitis Pigmentosa with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a family of genetic diseases leading to progressive degeneration of the retina. RP is characterized by progressive night blindness and a loss of peripheral vision (so called 'tunnel vision').
The disease eventually involves loss of color (blue) and day vision. The majority of patients become legally blind before the age of 60.
The prevalence of retinitis pigmentosa is about 1 in 4000 individuals. There are about 1.5 million people presently affected with RP around the world. In western countries RP is the most common cause of blindness in people under the age of 70. The cause of RP is unknown, although it may be inherited. It is a rare condition.
There is no effective treatment for this condition. In the past, many treatments have been empirically tried on RP patients with limited success, these include:
Diet modification: such as restriction of food rich phytannic acid (animal fat and dairy products) and phytol (green leafy vegetables) for Refsum disease; low protein (arginine) diet for gyrate atrophy;
Nutritional supplements: vitamin A, vitamin E, B--carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin B complex, essential fatty acid, lutein, digestive enzymes, amino acids, coenzyme Q10.
Oxygen therapy: HBO, ozone.
Ultrasound, electrical stimulation.
Surgery: cervical sympathectomy, muscle transplants, injection of placental extracts, fetal neuroretinal cell transplants, retinal pigment epithelium transplants.
Pharmaceutical: steroids, vasodilators, methyl sulfoxide.
Application of growth factors and cytokines for RP treatment is still in its experimental stage. Gene therapy may be the answer for the treatment of RP; however, whether to introduce a normal copy of a defective gene or to manipulate the endogenous gene expression is still unclear. It will take years before the first clinical trials of these methods are performed on humans.
In China, medical researchers have conducted clinical research on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine on RP patients since the 1960s. Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine was used in this research. Those research have demonstrated some very positive indications in RP patients:
visual acuity improvement
visual field expansion
Electroretinogram: increase of the amplitudes of summed OPs, the 30Hz flicker index response times were improved.
An Austrian research study has repeatedly demonstrated that acupuncture treatment can lead to a marked increase of blood flow velocity in the supratrochlear artery in a RP patient. Although the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine remains to be established in further, better designed, clinical trials, it is safe to say that TCM is a valuable treatment option to be explored or tried by RP patients and medical researchers.
At Wellspring Clinic in Vancouver, Canada, we have developed a treatment protocol for RP patients----Wellspring Vision Improvement Protocol (WVIP), which mainly consists of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and antioxidants supplementation. Since 1999 we have treated over 550 cases of retinitis pigmentosa. Our treatment has demonstrated some consistent improvement in these RP patients:
Night vision improvement: one patient couldn't see and walk at night before treatment. After 3 months of treatment she not only could walk at night but could also drive at night. After 11 months treatment, she could walk at night in her house without turning on the lights.
Visual field expansion: tested by Humphrey, repeated in every patient. Please see attachment in the 'Wellspring Case Report' section.
Although our research is still preliminary, it has demonstrated a possibility or a potential of what WVIP could achieve in the treatment of RP.