Primary open-angle glaucoma is a group of optic neuropathies that can lead to irreversible blindness. Sensory stimulation in the form of acupuncture or ear acupressure may contribute to protecting patients from blindness when used as a complementary method to orthodox treatment in the form of drops, laser or surgery. The objective of this article is to provide a narrative overview of the available literature up to July 2012. It summarises reported evidence on the potential beneficial effects of sensory stimulation for glaucoma. Sensory stimulation appears to significantly enhance the pressure-lowering effect of orthodox treatments. Studies suggest that it may also improve blood flow to the eye and optic nerve head. Furthermore, it may play a role in neuroprotection through regulating nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor and their receptors, thereby encouraging the survival pathway in contrast to the pathway to apoptosis. Blood flow and neuroprotection are areas that are not directly influenced by orthodox treatment modalities. Numerous different treatment protocols were used to investigate the effect of sensory stimulation on intraocular pressure, blood flow or neuroprotection of the retina and optic nerve in the animal model and human pilot studies. Objective outcomes were reported to have been evaluated with Goldmann tonometry, Doppler ultrasound techniques and electrophysiology (pattern electroretinography, visually evoked potentials), and supported with histological studies in the animal model. Taken together, reported evidence from these studies strongly suggests that sensory stimulation is worthy of further research.
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