Integrated Treatment for Macular Degeneration & Other Serious Eye Disorders
For the past twenty-five years, both of us have dealt with significant visual impairment, Reader as a practitioner and Halloran as a practitioner and patient. Most of the diseases that we are dealing with have been designated as chronic, progressive, untreatable and uncurable. The majority of these patients are left on their own with no resources available to try to improve their situation. The numbers are staggering and increasing as our population ages. The National Institutes of Health estimates that there are nearly 18 million Americans suffering from serious visual impairments, with nearly half being diagnosed with macular degeneration.
Reader as a neuroophthalmologist and, Halloran as a patient with retinitis pigmentosa, have individually and collectively been searching for methods and therapies that may be of some benefit. We feel that we have been fortunate to rediscover some ancient and natural methods that definitely impact positively on visual function. Also, we have integrated the most technically advanced bioelectrical stimulation devices available to promote cellular healing.
From December 1995 through August 1997 we have been evaluating the Integrated Visual Healing program and the effects of a single, two-week course of multiple therapies and training for vision improvement in patients with serious eye disorders. A total of thirty patients between the ages of 13 and 83 have gone through the program with twenty patients being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, seven patients with macular degeneration (including one with Stargaardt's), one patient with glaucoma and one patient with CMV retinitis and one with Diabetic Retinopathy. The patients were evaluated before and after the therapies with standardized best corrected visual acuity, visual field examinations using the Humphrey Field Analyzer, color vision, slit lamp examination and intraocular pressures.
The intensive therapy and training program is based on the approach developed by Halloran in the early 1980's (Amazing Grace-Autobiography of A Survivor, published 1993 by North Star). This intensive course of therapy includes the use of the Electro-Acuscope 80, the Tyro color reeducation instrument designed by Halloran, color therapy, Touch for Health, cervical soft tissue rehabilitation, acupressure, deep tissue massage, foot reflexology, biofeedback, and nutritional supplementation. In addition to the therapy there was approximately 32 hours of education, training and exercise combined with special emphasis on stress management related specifically to visual impairment. Other educational components involved positive goal setting, guided visualization and group discussions on challenges facing the visually impaired.
The most dramatic change seen in these individuals was the improvement in their visual acuity from the pre to post-test periods. Visual fields improved significantly when compared to the pre and post-treatment states. Objective data made available by the Humphrey Field Analyzer demonstrates conclusively that the peripheral vision of patients with macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa can be affected positively through this therapeutic intervention. Color vision with standardized testing (Ishihara Color Test) was less remarkable on statistical analysis but subjective reports by the patients showed an overall improvement in color perception.
In the first group of seven patients that were treated, actual acupuncture of the points around the eye were done using acupuncture needles that were placed to a depth of approximately 1-1/2 inches to 2 inches into the tissues around the eyeball. Dramatic effects were found but in the subsequent therapies, electrical acupuncture was substituted and appears to have equal positive results. Therefore, it was decided to eliminate the actual use of needles and have gone to the non-invasive electrical acupuncture only.
We would like to describe several of the patients and comment on their recovery. The first patient is a 66-year-old woman with retinitis pigmentosa of over 30 years' duration who noticed substantial improvement in both color vision and peripheral vision during the two weeks of therapy. At the end of the therapeutic training program her visual fields had expanded remarkably such that she would be able to qualify for a driver's license, having not been able to drive for many years. There was also an increase in her visual acuity as well.
A 72 year-old male patient with retinitis pigmentosa who had been affected since his early 20's came into the program with vision of count fingers at one foot in each eye. At the end of the two weeks training program he was able to identify the large 20/400 "E" on the top of the eye chart with the right eye and see 20/200 letters with the left eye. Prior to the therapy he was unable to identify any color plates with either eye and after the therapy sessions he was able to identify at least one color plate with each eye. There was also a significant improvement in his visual fields. At three months follow-up, there was continued improvement in his visual fields and stabilization of his visual acuity. At a six month follow-up evaluation, there was a slight decrease in all parameters just prior to beginning a five day intensive therapy session. After this intensive therapy, his visual acuity improved significantly to 20/200 in one eye and 20/100 in the other. His visual fields exce eded the original improvement from January 1997. His visual function has improved such that he is now able to ride a bicycle, a task he had previously been unable to perform.
One of the most interesting case histories was a patient with retinitis pigmentosa who acted as a control in the initial part of the study and was later treated. This patient had been a professional bowler for many years before he lost his vision and has used his bowling scores as an indication of his ability to see. Also, he has developed visual deprivation nystagmus in both eyes due to his poor vision. Before the therapies were begun the patient could only see counting fingers at I feet in the temporal field of the right eye and counting fingers at one foot in the left eye centrally. As a control patient these numbers did not change during the control period but improved to counting fingers at 2-3 feet in the right eye and counting fingers at approximately 12-16 inches in the left eye after the two weeks of therapy. Of note was the marked decrease in his visual deprivation nystagmus in both eyes after the therapeutic regimen. He continues to report that his bowling scores, hav ing been at approximately the same level for over ten years, have increased significantly since going through the training program.
This patient on evaluation at 90 days post intensive therapy showed a continued improvement in visual function, including visual fields and acuity. The patient reported that he had continued with the daily exercise regimen and the nutritional supplementation recommended which apparently contributed to the further improvement in his functioning. The nutritional supplementation program now recommended includes the following:
Life Pak Prime (Interior Design Nutritionals, Provo, Utah)
Optimum Omega (IDN)
*480 mgs of DHA per day
3. Optigar-Q (IDN)
4. Botanivive (IDN)
*Ginkgo Biloba Extract 120 mg
5. Pycnogenol (Pine Tree Bark Extract 50 mg.)
An 83 year-old female with macular degeneration began the program with best corrected visual acuity of count fingers at 1 foot in the left eye and 20/400 in the right eye. The visual field in the left eye was unobtainable and the right eye visual field showed a significant central scotoma blocking her vision. After the two weeks of therapy the visual acuity in the right eye improved from 20/400 to 20/100+1. A visual field was now obtainable in the left eye and the right eye showed a marked decrease in the amount of central scotoma.
Another patient is a 58 year-old woman with macular degeneration and high myopia with presenting visual acuity of 20/300 in the right eye and CF@5' in the left eye. After the two week intensive therapy her visual acuities were 20/200 in the right eye and 20/100+1 in the left eye. Because of her marked improvement in vision she has been able to return to playing racquetball.
Although this study may be criticized for lack of controls, at one period in this protocol the clinical monitor was masked as to who was receiving therapy and who was not. These patients acted as controls for the treated group and their values were used in comparison to those who received the therapies. One of the common difficulties in evaluating Humphrey Visual Fields is that there is a `learning curve' that patients go through in order to obtain adequate information from the fields. In this study, we used the central 30 degrees only in evaluating the visual fields since this is the area that is generally most damaged in both macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. We found that the controls did not improve over three different examinations whereas the treated patients definitely improved. Of note, one of the patients who acted as a control was later treated and showed marked increase in functioning on visual field examinations as compared to his previous three contro l fields.
Thus far all results have been positive with no significant side effects or loss of vision but with a slow continual increase in vision over time. It is interesting to note that those patients who have undergone minimal therapy with nutritional supplementation alone can regain some improved vision over an extended period of time, usually six to twelve months. However, those patients who undergo the two week intensive therapy program demonstrate a phenomenal increase in visual function.
This report reflects a two year study self funded by the authors and the participants We are very excited about the results of this preliminary study and are now in the process of eliciting research funds from various agencies. The preliminary results indicate that further investigation of this treatment protocol is warranted. It is essential that we continue to evaluate this therapeutic modality, and is of paramount importance to the millions of individuals who currently are offered no hope or help to recover visual loss. We have extended our studies in a clinical setting to include patients who have had significant optic nerve damage from strokes, end stage glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other forms of significant visual loss. We are planning to continue this line of research and will be working in conjunction with Erik Peper, PhD, Director of the Holistic Health Department at San Francisco State University.
We are very optimistic about the future of providing a viable rehabilitative program employing alternative therapies for those diagnosed with serious eye disorders. We have seen the results indicating that there is indeed hope on the horizon for those millions of Americans facing a future with diminished vision.
Grace Halloran, PhD
655 Lewelling Blvd. #214
San Leandro, California 94579 USA
Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.
By August L. Reader and Grace Halloran