Research suggests that acupuncture may help treat macular degeneration and improve vision loss and eye health. However, the evidence that acupuncture makes a significant difference for any eye issues is very small.

Acupuncture is a procedure that involves inserting fine needles into specific points around the body to treat certain health conditions.

Research suggests that acupuncture benefits some eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This article looks at the research into acupuncture for treating AMD and other eye conditions. It also discusses the potential risks and benefits.

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According to 2017 research, acupuncture may help improve vision loss and eye health in people with AMD.

The study compared a particular technique of acupuncture that uses stronger manipulation, known as emayaoling acupuncture, with regular acupuncture.

The study included 110 participants with early AMD, who received treatment with either emayaoling acupuncture or regular acupuncture over the course of 3 months.

The study found that emayaoling acupuncture was more effective for AMD than regular acupuncture.

In both groups, acupuncture improved eyesight and altered the macular retinal structure, including significantly reducing levels of macular nerve fiber layer (MNFL), retinal neuroepithelial layer (RNL), pigment epithelium, and choroid capillary composite lay (PECCL). Emayaoling acupuncture produced better results than regular acupuncture.

Learn more about AMD.

According to practitioners who provide acupuncture for degenerative eye diseases, the procedure may involve inserting acupuncture needles into acupuncture points around the eyebrows, arms, and legs. A practitioner will insert a needle into a specific acupuncture point and may twist the needle after insertion.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, these acupuncture points improve circulation to the eye and support the optic nervous system to improve vision and eye health.

There is little evidence supporting a standard procedure of acupuncture for AMD. A 2023 review of studies involving acupuncture for AMD noted that courses of treatment ranged from 20 days to 3 months. The review concluded that acupuncture might benefit people with dry AMD, but researchers require higher-quality evidence.

In a 2017 study, 110 participants receiving acupuncture for AMD had a treatment session once every 2 days for 3 months, which did result in clinical improvements.

Some eye care clinics offering acupuncture for AMD suggest people may require 10–20 sessions, with each session lasting around 30–45 minutes.

Learn how acupuncture works.

According to a 2022 article, acupuncture is a safe treatment option for AMD in clinical settings and has no significant side effects.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there are few reports of complications from acupuncture. Risks or complications may occur through improper technique or nonsterile equipment.

Improper delivery of acupuncture may cause serious side effects, such as:

People may experience some side effects at the needle insertion site, such as mild pain, bruising, or bleeding.

People should ensure they work with a fully trained acupuncturist with extensive experience, particularly in using acupuncture to treat eye conditions.

Other treatment options for AMD may help slow disease progression and include:

Read about the top 10 foods for eye health.

Acupuncture may help treat some other eye conditions. Research suggests acupuncture may help improve symptoms of dry eye disease with no serious side effects.

Acupuncture may also help relieve dry eye disease following cataract surgery. A 2022 study found that acupuncture was more effective than non-penetrating sham acupuncture in improving tear film stability. Researchers found that acupuncture was a safe treatment option for dry eye disease, with no significant side effects.

Acupuncture may be a beneficial treatment option for glaucoma, although researchers still require further studies. Lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) is the current treatment option for glaucoma.

A small-scale 2020 study found that acupuncture reduced IOP in people with glaucoma. Acupuncture may also help increase ocular perfusion and blood flow to the eye.

Researchers are still investigating the effects of acupuncture on AMD. Some research suggests that acupuncture, particularly a stronger manipulation technique, may help improve eyesight and eye health in people with AMD.

In clinical settings, acupuncture for AMD appears safe and has no serious side effects.

Although acupuncture is not a cure for AMD, research suggests that it may help improve eyesight and eye damage. However, the evidence that acupuncture makes a difference for eye issues is small.

People can talk with a doctor about treatments for AMD, including finding a trained practitioner who offers acupuncture for AMD.

Complications from acupuncture are rare but may include infection and organ puncture.

People with AMD may wish to try alternative treatments, such as vitamin supplements, dietary changes, and laser surgery for wet AMD.