This is quite a specific piece of extremely recent research (about three weeks ago) on the use of acupuncture for dry eyes. There have been a number of studies that have previously examined the use of acupuncture for dry eyes, but this is one of the few to examine the effects of acupuncture in three subtypes of dry eye condition. A total of 108 patents were split into an acupuncture group and an artificial tear (lubricant eye drops) group; artificial tears are the most common standard treatment for this condition. The problem with artificial tears is that previous studies have shown that blinking causes tear volume to return to the previous (before treatment) level within 30 minutes, so there is a need for more effective alternative treatments.
Acupuncture treatment was administered 3 times a week for 4 weeks (giving a total of 12 treatments) after which the acupuncture group experienced significant improvement of symptoms except for in one of the subgroups – the Sjörgen Syndrome Dry Eye (SSDE) group. One previous study by List et al. had shown that acupuncture was of limited value for patients with general Sjörgen syndrome. Indeed no responsible acupuncturist will ever claim that acupuncture is a panacea- it has strengths and weaknesses like any system of medicine.. Overall this was an unusually well-written paper, with plenty of relevant detail about the way the research was conducted. It is a little bit technical, but is freely available and is worth a quick look for anyone affected by this condition.
Here is another study…
from a very respectable journal, which compared the effect of acupuncture with artificial tears (sodium carboxymethylcellulose) in a group of 150 patients, for four weeks (acupuncture 3 times a week for 4 weeks, giving a total of 12 treatments). Immediately after treatment, there was no significant difference between the 2 groups, and if that had been the end of the study then it would be very difficult to recommend acupuncture over artificial tears, because of cost and convenience, however, on 8 week followup (4 weeks after the study ended) the acupuncture group had significantly better results than the artificial tear group. There is an important lesson here; it is often the case that there can be a dramatic improvement in a medical condition after just one acupuncture treatment, or even during just one acupuncture treatment- this varies from patient to patient and depends on the condition being treated, however, as you can see from this study, even people who don’t get immediate results, very often get extremely robust and long-lasting effects over a course of treatment.