Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) breaks down diseases into patterns of imbalance that contribute to or cause bodily malfunctions. In the case of glaucoma, there are many possible contributing factors that lead to vision loss due to a buildup of fluid pressure that creates optical nerve damage. While Chinese medicine can be beneficial for those with glaucoma, it is important to maintain a working relationship with an ophthalmologist and monitor your condition.
One underlying theory in TCM is that “the Liver opens to the eyes” as the eyes are the sense organs that relate to the Wood Element in Chinese medicine
Liver Qi Stagnation and Glaucoma
Liver congestion contributes to glaucoma in a number of ways according to TCM:
2nd – When Liver energy stagnates, it creates heat that rises. Fluids tend to flow downward in the body. If fluids unnaturally flow upward to the eyes, there is a likely culprit to carry that fluid up: Liver Fire created from Liver Qi Stagnation.
Liver – Kidney Yin Deficiency and Glaucoma
This pattern is common with slow onset of open angle glaucoma seen with aging as Yin is consumed and becomes scarcer with age. Here are a few ways that Yin influences eye health:
1st - Yin is cooling in nature and is necessary to keep the Liver soothed.
2nd - The Liver stores nourishing Blood necessary to maintain eye health, and Blood is Yin in nature.
The Kidney energetic organ system is the original source of Yin of the body and would be indicated with Liver Yin Deficiency. This pattern would likely demonstrate some of the other patterns of Yin Deficiency possibly including dryness or thirst at night.
Qi – Yang Deficiency and Glaucoma
Adequate Qi is necessary to maintain organ health and sense organ health.
1st - Spleen Qi Deficiency is a common contributing factor with abnormal fluid buildup in the body and is a common pattern seen in glaucoma.
Other patterns of Qi Deficiency would also be apparent, possibly with signs of Internal Dampness. This is a very common indication with glaucoma.
Liver Yang Rising Creating Wind
When Liver Qi Stagnation is not properly treated, the condition worsens, the Liver continues to heat up, and Liver Fire results. If you imagine that you are sitting next to a campfire it will not take long to understand that heat rises. As the heat from the fire rises you can imagine seeing the smoke begin to swirl as the fire produces “Wind”. This is a basic law of nature that can manifest within your body just as it does in nature.
Wind tends to be erratic, and this type of glaucoma might be seen with a sudden onset, headache, eye pain, blurred vision, or dizziness such as seen with closed angle glaucoma. This would likely initially be an emergency situation.
Phlegm-Fire and Glaucoma
According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases such as age-related glaucoma. Eye drops are often administered to control eye pressure thus lessening optical nerve damage in western medicine; unfortunately, there is no known cure for glaucoma in western medicine, as is true for most degenerative chronic health conditions related to aging. Herbal therapy is a viable option with few possible side effects that should be considered with the guidance of your doctor.