Non Arteritic Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION)- Symptoms and Treatents
Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is a medical condition that presents a sudden loss of vision, usually in one eye. It is the most common cause of painless vision loss in individuals 50 years or older. It is estimated that NAION affects more than 10,000 people in the USA every year.
NAION is an optic nerve stroke. It occurs due to the lack of adequate blood flow to the optic nerve. In most cases, the further vision loss remains stable over time. The patients usually do not have the warning signs; they notice the vision loss upon waking up in the morning.
This text will provide you the essential information about the optic neuropathy symptoms, their causes, and treatment solutions. You should consider alternative medicine – acupuncture and Chinese herbs to ensure the best possible improvement of your vision.
Get Safe Alternative Symptoms Treatment of NAION at Makari Wellness
You do not have to suffer from failing eyesight when you have Makari Wellness. A wide variety of alternative treatments can help you with eye problems, correct your imbalance and improve your visual acuity.
With more than 15 years of experience in TCM, we will provide you an individualistic approach based on your symptoms so that treatments are designed especially for you. Combining Eastern and Western medicine presents so many solutions to the problem of Non Arteritic Ischemic Optic Neuropathy.
Treatment for NAION may include Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, Micro Acupuncture 48, Chinese herbs, Supplements, and many other treatments to address your unique needs.
What is NAION?
As we stated before, NAION is permanent optic nerve damage due to insufficient blood flow (ischemia), resulting in central and/or peripheral vision loss. It represents an optic nerve infarction.
The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve cells connecting the eye to the brain. It carries nerve impulses (visual signals) from the retina to the brain, which interprets them as images. The optic nerve must penetrate through the eye’s wall. Optic disc or optic nerve head is where the optic nerve is formed, together with the blood vessels nourishing the eye.
A normal optic disc is round or oval in shape, orange, or pink in color. A standard head diameter that varies in size from 1.2 to 2.5mm. Patients with NAION are often born with anatomically small, tight, and crowded optic discs. It is called disc at risk.
Although it is not clearly understood the underlying mechanisms of NAION, some risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Carotid artery narrowing
- Sleep disorders (obstructive sleep apnea)
- Blood clotting disorder
- Disc at risk
- Some vasoactive medications
Diagnosis of NAION
NAION diagnosis is a clinical one. It means that there is no single test that gives your doctor a diagnosis, so several symptoms are considered.
The doctor may perform a series of visual tests, including a test of visual acuity, color vision, visual field test, the response of the pupil to light, and special pictures of the optic nerve.
Non-visual tests may include measuring the blood pressure, blood tests for diabetes and high cholesterol, even CT or MRI scans to rule out other potential causes of the vision loss.
NAION vs. AION
AION or Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy is optic nerve damage caused by poor circulation in the eye. It has 2 types:
- AAION, which is an optic nerve injury due to inflammatory disease of the small blood vessels in the eye (called temporal arteritis),
- NAION, which occurs as a result of the non-inflammatory disease (high blood pressure, etc.)
Most patients experience acute vision loss in usually only one eye. It is often described as painless blurring of the vision in the center, upper or lower half of the visual field that evolves over several hours to several days. Other symptoms may include loss of contrast or light sensitivity.
An affected eye looks normal, without any redness or swelling. But during the eye exam, your doctor may notice the swollen optic disc as a result of the pressure build-up.
Sometimes patients with NAION may experience visual acuity improvement, so in some cases, vision may remain only moderately impaired.
More on Eye Conditions
Unfortunately, there is no proven 100% effective treatment of the NAION. But recent studies have shown some results in treating NAION with corticosteroid therapy, which reduces the swelling of the optic disc.
Corticosteroid therapy may include systemic (oral) corticosteroids or intravitreal injections (into the eyeball). There are also some trials involving the usage of neuroprotectors to protect the nerves or even regenerate new fibers within the optic nerve.
The best thing you can do is to minimize the risk factors. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes under control.
How to Improve Blood Flow to Optic Nerve?
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has been used for thousands of years to treat eye diseases. The root of the TCM is Qi (chee), specific, vital energy presented in the body, which flows through energy streams called meridians. It is made of Yin and Yang, complementary opposites.
When out of balance or blocked, Qi can cause illness. The goal of the TCM is to restore balance and promote the body’s self-healing processes.
According to the TCM, there are 6 environmental (external) pathogenic factors that affect eyes: Heat, Cold, Wind, Dampness, Dryness, and Summer Heat. Wind and fire are associated with acute eye disorders; the wind is characterized by the sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss, usually found in NAION.
Furthermore, the eyes are closely related to the internal organs, especially the liver and kidneys. It is said that the liver “opens to the eyes.” The visual ability mainly relies on the nourishment of the liver blood.
Acupuncture for NAION
Acupuncture as the primary modality of TCM can be very effective in treating patients with NAION. It can treat patients with the following TCM diagnosis:
- Liver Yang Rising
- Weak Kidney Ying
- Liver Qi Stagnation
It includes the insertion of the thin needles into the specific points through meridians. It releases the blocked qi and triggers spontaneous healing reactions in the body.
There are 18 acupuncture points around the eyes. Each of these increases the qi circulation and blood flow to the eyes; promotes circulation, especially in the area surrounding the optic disc. It also stimulates the nerves and muscles that control the eyes, eventually improving the vision.
Some of the most important bilateral (on both sides of the body) acupoints include:
- Bladder 2 – located at the medial end of the eyebrows.
- Stomach 2 – located directly below the pupil on the lower edge of the eye orbit, below the eyelid.
- Stomach 3 – located directly below the pupil and under the cheekbone, it levels with the base of the nose.
Stimulating them, we can increase optimal blood flow and nerve conduction in the eye affected by optic neuropathy.
Chinese Herbal Therapy for NAION
We have already said that eyes and liver share a strong connection, so liver meridian must have clear and unblocked qi for the eyes to function properly.
Your certified Chinese herbalist carefully selects every Chinese herb for its specific properties that nurture eyes. The best thing about herbal therapy is that it focuses not only on core problems but also on strengthening the overall immune system. Chinese herbalist will create the best possible herbal mixture for your condition.
You may find some of these herbs in the form of tea, fresh or dried herbs, powder, liquid extract, or capsules:
- Milk thistle has excellent antioxidant properties and is widely used for liver detoxication.
- Green tea is rich in Vitamin C, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin, which are proven vital for maintaining eye health. Special antioxidants called flavonoids help in eye protection against several types of eye diseases.
- Coleus contains Forskolin, a substance that lowers high blood and high intraocular pressure.
- Gingko Biloba is a powerful vascular dilator that enhances the blood flow in the back of the eye surrounding the optic nerve.
- Turmeric, with its active component Curcumin supports overall eye health by reducing the amount of oxidative stress.
- Eyebright is a weed containing a substance called Aucubin, which may protect the liver, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce eye inflammation.
Nutritional Therapy for NAION
Your sight is precious, so supporting your eye health also requires a well-balanced diet. Some great and easily available foods that protect eyes are divided into two major categories: meat and vegetables/fruits. They are rich in vitamins and minerals that maintain overall eye function, and you can include them in your diet.
The following nutrients and nutrient-rich food are #1 in NAION treatment.
- Vitamin A, also known as Retinol, is found only in animal-sourced food, like beef, lamb, and goose liver, cod liver oil, goat cheese, butter, and many others.
- Beta-carotene is found in sweet potato, winter squash, kale, mango, collard, carrot, cantaloupe, sweet red pepper, spinach, apricot, and many others.
- Vitamin E is widespread in foods like wheat germ oil, mango, octopus meat, sunflower seeds, salmon, almonds, hazelnuts, broccoli, peanuts, olives, goose meat, and many others.
- Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and berries.
- Zinc is found in oysters, beef, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and lentils.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in dark leafy green vegetables and eggs.
- Omega oils are found in fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel trout, and anchovies.