Dry Mouth, Dry Eyes, Ugh! Could Acupuncture Provide Relief? Yes!

I’ve recently been introduced to what I will call a xero-xero patient.  This is a patient that suffers from xerostomia, or dryness of the mouth and xeropthalmia, or dryness of the eyes.  Sometimes diagnosed as Sjogren’s syndrome, the disease is a hypofunction of the salivary and lacrimal glands.  But, please note that Sjogren’s syndrome is a systemic autoimmune disease that may affect other organs, some of which are kidney, liver, stomach.  The distinction here is that the xero-xero patient that I am discussing here may or may not have clinically diagnosed Sjogren’s syndrome.

There are many sufferers of chronic dry eyes and dry mouth (DEDM). Those that have been diagnosed as Sjogren’s amount to approximately 4 million with about 9 out of 10 being women. There are probably many more people that are undiagnosed and may suffer some degree of subclinical DEDM.

Some of the causes of DEDM are (surprise!) medications, autoimmune disorders, radiation therapy, along with head and neck cancers. So far, there is no Western medical cure for DEDM.

Usually as a last resort, many xero-xero sufferers turn to alternative medicine to see if any relief can be found. One such modality, acupuncture, and namely ear acupuncture has produced some surprising results.

A study done by Peter Johnstone, Richard Niemtzow, and Robert Riffenburgh has shown that xero-xero patients may find relief through acupuncture.  They have developed a protocol using 6 points on the ears and 2 points on the index fingers to treat this debilitating disorder. It requires ear needles and sugar-free lozenges to help stimulate and maintain saliva production.

I treated my xero-xero patient today, following the instructions provided in the protocol.  Within 10 minutes of the initiation of treatment, the 85 year old woman began to have a frothy salivation, which continued throughout the remainder of the treatment period (of approximately 40 minutes).Having no prior knowledge of this protocol, I was able to produce some successful results the very first time.  I’m not saying that this is a cure for all sufferers, but that many will find some degree of relief.

The main reason why I am blogging about this, is because I want this treatment protocol to be in the knowledgebase of the acupuncturists practicing in America today. It hasn’t seen widespread use and more knowledge and practice of this protocol will help us all understand the mechanism behind the treatment. So, gather up your patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, head and neck cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or just plain dryness in the eyes and mouth.  Treat them with this protocol and add another tool to your acupuncture toolbelt.

The links follow:

http://www.n5ev.com/Dry%20mouth%20and%20dry%20eyes%20acupuncture%20technique%20update%20Oct%2015,%202009.pdf

http://www.n5ev.com/xerophthalmia.pdf

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