Acupuncture for dry eyes, does it work?

Dry eye is a common condition. When tears can’t provide adequate lubrication for the eyes, the eyes become dry. This can be caused for many reasons such as not enough tears or poor-quality tears are produced. This leads to inflammation and damage of the eye's surface.

The symptoms of dry eyes may include: a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes, stringy mucus in or around your eyes, sensitivity to light, eye redness, a sensation of having something in your eyes, difficulty wearing contact lenses or night-time driving, watery eyes, blurred vision or eye fatigue. Dry eyes symptoms can occur in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.

If you have dry eyes, you may experience some complications: such as eye infections and eye inflammation causing pain in the eyes.

Treatments for dry eyes are to control the symptoms of dry eyes.

Acupuncture is effective to release dry eye symptoms. This is proved by many clinical research.

Here is some examples of the research analysis for acupuncture on dry eye symptoms.

First, this review compared the effect of acupuncture with artificial tears treatment and included seven studies and 383 patients. They used tear break-up time (BUT), Schirmer I test (SIT), and cornea fluorescein staining (CFS) to measure the effectiveness of the treatments. They found the overall BUT of patients in acupuncture group was significantly longer than that of the artificial tears group after treatment; the SIT was significantly higher in the acupuncture group than that in the artificial tears group after treatment; the CFS of patients in acupuncture group was significantly improved compared to that in artificial group. They concluded that acupuncture therapy is effective for the dry eye patients, partly better than artificial tear treatment.

The second study investigated the effect of acupuncture for dry eye syndrome after refractive surgery. A total of 18 patients with dry eye syndrome occurring after refractive surgery participated in this study. For 4 weeks, the acupuncture plus usual care and usual care only groups received treatment three times a week. They used aseries of assessments, namely the ocular surface disease index (OSDI) to measure the effectiveness of the treatments. There was a significant difference in the trends of OSDI changes between the acupuncture plus usual care and the usual care only groups. No serious adverse events were reported during the study. They concluded that four weeks of acupuncture treatment in addition to usual care is a feasible treatment for dry eye syndrome after refractive surgery.

More recently a review included nineteen studies with 1126 patients and analysed the effectiveness of acupuncture for dry eye symptoms. They found significant improvement of dry eyes from acupuncture treatment and also concluded that acupuncture treatment is more effective than artificial tears treatments.


Lei Yang et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 143858.

Jun-Hwan Lee et al Integr Med Res. 2021 Mar; 10(1): 100456.

Bong Hyun Kim et al BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018; 18: 145.

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