TCM Ophthalmology: Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of genetic abnormalities that can lead to degeneration of the retina and subsequent vision loss. RP is characterized by progressive night blindness, loss of peripheral vision and in some cases loss of central vision.

The majority of RP patients become legally blind by age 60.  Approximately 1 in 4,000 people have RP and there are about 1.5 million people worldwide with RP.  The cause of RP is unknow and may be inherited and/or immune related.  There is currently no effective conventional medical treatment for RP.

Since the 1960’s, medical researchers in China have been conducting clinical research on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Retinits Pigmentosa.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have both been well researched in China and results have been quite positive with improved ERG, visual field and visual acuity.  There is no cure for RP, but certain acupuncture methods seem to be the only hope for those with RP.

One research study in Austria, repeatedly demonstrated that specific acupuncture points increase blood flow to the supratrochlear artery of the eye.  This has shown to benefit many eye conditions, including RP, Usher’s, optic atrophy etc.

Dr. Andy Rosenfarb has been practicing TCM for over 18 years and has developed a unique and highly effective acupuncture method for RP.  Treatment consists of Micro Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Qigong Eye Exercises, Essential Oils, Naturopathic Medicine, Micro Current Stimulation, Color Light Therapy  and Targeted Nutrition.

Since 1997, Dr.Rosenfarb has treated hundreds of cases of RP from all around the world. He has written and published two books on Chinese Medical Ophthalmology and teaches regularly to acupuncturists and Medical Doctors.  His long term goal is to pioneer the movement of “Integrative Ophthalmology” into mainstream medicine so patients can get the absolute best in Integrative Care.

Dr. Rosenfarb is currently working with researchers at John’s Hopkins University in Maryland on a research project, “Acupuncture in the Treatment of Retinits Pigmentosa.”  We are anticipating that this will be the first published, peer reviewed study in the United States showing acupuncture as “evidence based medicine” for the treatment if RP.

In addition to helping the vision, Dr. Rosenfarb focuses on identifying and treating the underlying causes.  RP is a systemic condition, not just an eye condition.  Understanding and managing the underlying causes allows us to recover and slow or arrest the degenerative process.   We continue to work with more and more eye doctors who have confirmed recovery of lost vision as well as long-term stabilization.  There is no “cure” for RP, but in many cases we have seen recovery of lost vision and in some cases and what appears to be a complete arrest of degeneration over 10-15+ years of monitoring.

On average most cases RP patients can expect to recover about 10-15 degrees of peripheral field vision. Most report improved adaptability in dim lit environments and improved night vision.  For cases of atypical RP or central vision loss due to complications or retinal edema, many recover lost central vision.

After 1 week/course of 15 treatments, vision is re-tested and improvement can be measured. For testing, we use the vision field perimetry, acuity testing, color vision, and contrast sensitivity.  Any measurable improvement confirms a positive response and that the treatments are working.

During the next week of treatments we will continue to monitor improvement. The more treatments, the more vision may be restored, until no further improvement and maximum vision recovery has been achieved – usually within the first year or two.   During the first year, we usually recommend patients return for 3-4 times and then 1-2x year for maintenance.

If you are diagnosed with RP please consider NOT using birth control pills and men should use caution when taking medication for erectile dysfunction.  Also, we have seen many cases in women where vision becomes significantly worse after giving birth.

Dr. Rosenfarb’s RP treatments are unique and include Micro Acupuncture, Auricular (ear) Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, Infrared Therapy, Color Light Therapy, Micro Current and Targeted Nutrition.  No one else in the world combines cutting edge Naturopathic Medicine, Micro Acupuncture and Chinese Medical Ophthalmology.  We typically get 80-85% success rate with all RP cases seen.

Dr. Rosenfarb is currently working with researchers at John’s Hopkins University on a research study, “Acupuncture in the treatment for Retinits Pigmentosa.”  The acupuncture protocols were created by Dr.Rosenfarb and the study is under current investigation.  We are anticipating a great response that will bring confirm our treatment as evidence based medicine.

VISION TESTING:  Testing vision is critical to ensure a positive response.  If we don’t test then we cannot confirm your response.  Not testing leaves everyone guessing, which clinically inappropriate when treating such serious cases like RP.  We use mainstream Functional Ophthalmic testing methods with all of our RP patients. Conventional testing with your ophthalmologist or retinal specialist is recommended to further confirm improvements.  We recommend testing 4-6 weeks after treatment.

SUPPLEMENTS:  Each case is unique and requires different nutritional needs.  We use ONLY FDA approved supplementation that is safe.  We see many patient taking herbs and supplements that they either don’t know why they are taking them or don’t know what’s in the supplement formula.  This is not safe and you should know every ingredient and dosage for health safety purposes.  Dr.Rosenfarb will review your current regiment and recommend adding or eliminating certain supplements.