13 June 2012

Photos from left to right:

1. Pterygium. 2. Bright eyes. 3. Treatment given:  DU-20, BL-1, BL-2, L.I.-4 plus GB-1 or SJ-23; usually used alternately between one treatment and the next. Bleed extra point Erjian at tip of the apex of the ear. 3/4. Occlusion left iris, showing improvement after two treatments. 5/6: Bal Kumari before and after treatment. 7. Eyecamp - anis (nuns) treating students.

Pterygium is a thickening and overgrowth of the conjunctiva, the layer lining the sclera or the white of the eye. It is generally accompanied by redness, soreness and irritation of the eye - conjunctivitis. There is frequently some yellowing of the pterygia. The thickened layers will continue to grow, covering the cornea and eventually the iris, occluding vision. The pterygia can distort vision by pulling at the cornea, altering its shape and causing astigmatism.

In Kathmandu we came across a very high percentage of Pterygium, thought to be the result of a chronic conjunctivitis caused by excessive fine dust and pollution being blown into the eyes. It is exacerbated by glaringly strong sun - of which is there is plenty in both Nepal and India.

The air is particularly polluted in Kathmandu, where there are no controls over street-cooking or factory-induced air pollutants. Burning of all rubbish, in plastic bags on the streets, is the norm. The sky is hardly ever a clear blue, it is whitish and dirty-looking.

Usually the only solution to Pterygium is removal by surgery, under local anaesthetic, after which the bared sclera is covered with conjunctiva taken from underneath the upper eyelid. This is not permanent and the pterygium often returns. Nor does it resolve the chronic conjunctivitis, which should be treated by protection of the eyes - wrap-around sunglasses to protect from both wind and sun and prevent re-occurrence. Acupuncture shows remarkably quick results with conjunctivitis, resulting in bright, white eyes.

Acupuncture seems to offer a cure for pterygium; astonishing results are obtained.

Leilani and two of her graduate students ran an Eye Camp in Shri Mangal Dvip (SMD) school, checking for conjunctivitis and pterygium. They examined more than 450 patients and gave treatment to more than 10% who were seriously affected, with a marked pterygium. Leilani commented that over 80% of the students had a noticeable conjunctivitis and suffered dry, sore eyes, from as early as 12 years of age. Once in their late teens, the first signs of pterygium could be seen and in their twenties, around half had already developed a pterygia. The results of acupuncture treatment can be seen from the first session.

The success of these treatments day to day is matched by the highly effective ethos of Barefoot Clinics as a whole. We teach locals in barefoot acupuncture so that they can treat their own communities. They are known and trusted by the local population and are motivated to provide the best healthcare. The Buddhist nuns that we have trained, for example, are graduates of the SMD School and are now returning there to treat the widespread cases of conjunctivitis and pterygium. For more information about the children taken in by the school from the Nepal-Tibet border, see this slide show: youtu.be/wdWzuhEUy9w

The nuns are also establishing clinics in remote regions of the Himalayas, sometimes trekking for days to reach their patients. Few could manage such a feat, but the nuns’ local knowledge and deeply caring natures, together with training from Barefoot Clinics, means that the benefits of acupuncture can be taken to those normally far beyond reach.

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