Dry, sore, ‘gritty’ eyes can really get people down. It is one of those things that sounds minor but is a constant irritation, especially for reading and computer work and in bed at night. The optician or doctor may diagnose it as ‘dry eyes’ and offer you lubricant eye-drops. These are helpful but you need to apply them frequently. So what is the cause of dry eyes?
In Chinese medicine, dry eyes are usually caused by a low level of Yin energy. The Yin aspect of Qi is the moist, cool, calm type of energy. In good health, it is in balance with our Yang – the hot, fast, excitable aspects of energy. When the moist Yin is at a low level our bodies get too dry, such as dry eyes, mouth and skin. Yin energy is weakened by continuous work without a break, especially mental work and pressure, and by emotional strain. Which part of our body is the most affected by dryness depends on our individual constitution and by other imbalances in the body.
Dryness that affects the eyes is often linked to low Yin in the Liver meridian. This meridian is a flow of Qi that starts at the feet and travels up through the liver to the chest and throat. It is sais to ‘open into the eyes’ and is connected to many eye conditions. Dry eyes may be linked to other signs of liver meridian imbalance, such as headaches, migraines, dizziness, tendon problems or period problems. Chinese medicine always includes emotional aspects of health and it is the emotions of anger, frustration and irritability that are linked to the liver meridian. Consequently dry eyes may become worse, or become red and itchy, when stress is causing anger or resentment. It is important to know that a weakness in the liver meridian does not mean there is any problem with the liver as understood by Western medicine – the word liver means different things in these two systems of medicine.
Acupuncture can help people with dry eyes by strengthening Qi, especially the Yin aspect of the liver meridian. This will be a gradual process and require a number of treatments, but the good news is that you are likely to feel better in other ways too. Recently a patient who I am treating for other aspects of low Yin, told me how much more comfortable her eyes were and that her optician had remarked that they were much less dry. She is also enjoying improvement in her dry mouth and skin and her general energy levels.