Eyeing Acupuncture

The Chinese medical treatment is now used as an adjunctive treatment for various eye diseases.

Alexandra Kostick, MD, of Atlantic Eye Center, is pleased to announce the incorporation of Chinese acupuncture into her Palm Coast ophthalmic practice.Stock photo from istockphoto.com.
“I became interested in acupuncture because of a personal issue. I had some sports injuries, and I wanted to treat them with an alternative approach versus the traditional Western medicine of steroid injections and non-steroidal pills that can have side effects,” Dr. Kostick explains. “I had acupuncture performed on those sports injuries, and after several weeks of treatment, I was amazed by how quickly it improved the injuries. I was back to normal.”
The theory behind acupuncture focuses on an energy flow (Qi – pronounced “chee”) along specific channels throughout the body. According to this theory, disease occurs when there is too little or too much Qi, or when the flow is blocked or interrupted.
The ultimate goal of acupuncture treatments has been described as a means to restore balance, and therefore health, by manipulation of the flow of Qi through invisible tracts running from head to toe. These pathways, commonly referred to as meridians, are distinct from anatomical networks such as nerves or blood vessels.
“The goal of acupuncture is to return one’s body to its natural state,” Dr. Kostick explains. “Chinese medicine has been doing this for over five thousand years, and to this day, acupuncture remains a very prominent treatment in the Far East. I was amazed to hear that some of the professors who taught me went to Asia and China and did several years of training there. Many of them used acupuncture as the anesthetic when performing surgeries. It is truly remarkable.”
Acupuncture is currently used most often for back pain, joint pain, neck pain, recurring pain and migraines. However, it is garnering more attention within ophthalmology.
“I had to ask myself, What else could acupuncture do? In fact, over the past few years, I’ve had several of my patients ask me, Do you know anything about ophthalmic acupuncture? This encouraged me to start researching the topic. In doing so, I discovered that there are a few pioneers in the ophthalmic community, including ophthalmologists and a few optometrists, who are performing acupuncture on their patients.
“I’ve completed two years of study and clinical practice,” Dr. Kostick says. “I am excited to say I am now offering ophthalmic acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment option.”

Positive Points

Dr. Kostick notes that not all ophthalmic conditions can be treated with acupuncture. The top diagnoses being considered are retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, glaucoma and dry eye disease.
For example, age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of severe, irreversible vision impairment in developed countries. Approximately 1.75 million people in the United States have advanced macular degeneration.
“From a Western medicine perspective, we may have hit a roadblock in treating the dry form of macular degeneration, so this could be a breakthrough, eventually.”
Acupuncture usually involves multiple treatments, two to three times a week, for at least a four-week period before noticing improvement.
“We leave the needles in anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, so the patients are usually in the office for about thirty minutes total.”
According to Dr. Kostick, there are several hundred acupoints that can be found from head to toe. A lot of the points used for ophthalmic conditions are around the eye; however, some are in the foot, some in the hand, and others are in the back.
Dr. Kostick stresses that the needles used in acupuncture are extremely thin and there is no pain involved.
“The needles are about as thick as a strand of hair,” she describes. “There is absolutely no discomfort involved. It is very safe and effective.”

Becoming a Believer

When she first began practicing acupuncture, Dr. Kostick says she experimented with staff members, friends, even family members to see how well it worked.
“I was on a cruise with my parents recently, and the first day out, the seas were really, really rough, and my mother was seasick,” Dr. Kostick shares. “She was extremely nauseous, and I said, “You know what? There are a couple of really good acupuncture points for nausea and for dizziness. I actually carry a little acupuncture kit that I use for myself for various aches and pains and some migraines, so I got my needles out and I put a couple of them in my mother in specific points that control the nervous system and the nausea system. Believe it or not, her nausea was gone fifteen or twenty minutes later.
“I really had to change my way of thinking,” she admits. “I could not go into this thinking as a medical doctor. I had to leave that at the door and totally change the way I think about medicine and how you treat the body. Chinese medicine is a totally different approach.
“Is it going to replace Western medicine? Absolutely not. Will it replace the care that I’m giving now? Absolutely not. But can it be added as a benefit? Absolutely yes.”
Dr. Kostick says she is pleased to be able to provide Chinese acupuncture to patients and is looking forward to seeing how it continues to progress in treating ophthalmic conditions.
“This is definitely a work in progress on many levels, but I think how far the use of acupuncture has come is incredible,”
Dr. Kostick says. “I think many of my patients will benefit from this, and I cannot wait to talk with many of them about this option.”

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    • Atlantic Eye Center

      Flagler County’s leading female board-certified ophthalmologist, serving the county since 1996, is at Atlantic Eye Center. Benefits the center offers you include: A multi-trained and highly regarded doctor Unparalleled eye care experien... Read More

    • Alexandra Kostick, MD, FACS, FRCSC

      Alexandra Kostick, MD, FACS, FRCSC, is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. After earning her medical degree at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Dr. Kostick served a mixed surgery internship at St. Boniface Hospital at... Read More