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28.5.11

Adventures In Acupuncture II

This is part 2 of an on-going series of articles about the use of acupuncture in treating the effects of multiple sclerosis, especially blindness.  See Part 1 here.  The standard Western medical approach gave no hope for recovery, and the use of life-long drugs (with distasteful side-effects) offered a ‘possible’ protection from further attacks.

For those playing along at home, here is the clinical description of the situation:

The patient is a 50-year-old, white male, presenting with profound disruption to vision and hearing, with intermittent muscle spasms in the lower legs, numbness in the middle three toes of each foot, and occasional ‘pins and needles’ in the feet and hands.  The patient describes vision loss of between 75% and 90%, with the right eye more affected.  He has some color vision in the peripheral field of view, but virtually none in the central region.  He describes his vision over-all as being dark and blurred, though the left eye has a small window of extremely acute resolution.
The patient describes significant hearing degredation and complains of persistent tinnitus, with the right ear being most affected.

The patient describes occasional and random muscle spasms that primarily occur just above the ankles in the external, lateral regions.  He describes a frequent ‘pins and needles’ sensation on the tops of the feet, and little or no sensation in the middle three toes of both feet.  Normal motor function and strength are noted in the affected digits.

The patient experienced profound fatigue and concomitant loss of vision on 1 April 2009.  He was admitted to AINI hospital and received high-dose intravenous steroids for five days, followed by one month of oral dosage on an out-patient basis.  He reports having recovered 60%-75% of his vision at that time, but has experienced a slow decline in visual acuity, as well as other effects since then. 

The patient was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on 23 May 2009, based on MRI results of high-resolution scans of the optic nerves.  Certain foods and over-exertion/exhaustion appear to aggravate the condition.  He has maintained a strict regimen of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements since the initial attack.

Clinical testing showed the eyes to be healthy and free of cataract or glaucoma.  However, the central area of the optic nerve appeared pale on direct inspection.  Iris response is normal and there are no appreciable physiological changes in the eye tissues.
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In the interest of objectifying my results as much as possible, I have devised some tests to try and objectively quantify any improvements/declines I experience, as a result of the course of treatment.

For testing my eye-sight, I have chosen the SMPTE standard television test patterns:

·        The first is the common ‘color bars,’ which will allow me to use an objective standard for color perception and contrast.  If you are not familiar with how the chart works, it displays the three primary colors of light (red, green, blue-RGB), the secondary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow-CMY)as well as absolute black and ‘video’ black (0% and 8%), and white (100%), as measured by the NTSC-2 broadcast signal standard using a vector scope to align the signal.

·        The second is a standard SMPTE alignment/sharpness chart, used to align camera tubes/chips and dislay reproduction.  Though not perfect, it should allow me to objectively measure my ability to detect fine detail across a standardized field of view.

In order to eliminate as many variables as possible, I will perform the tests on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, each week.  That will give one test 48 hours post-treatment, and two within 12 hours post-treatment.

I will perform the tests at 9pm, local time, each of the three days per week, under the same lighting conditions, and on the same display (my laptop) with the same default settings each time.  Though somewhat subjective, I will use arm’s length (approximately 1 meter/1 yard) as the standard distance from the focal plane (the retina) to the tip of my middle finger, with shoulders squared.
As for things like ‘aches and pains,’ ‘spasms’ and ‘sensory input,’ I don’t have any way, short of paying for EEG and MRI every week, to quantify these things objectively.  I can only report what I feel, by necessity.  However, if I realize significant improvement by the end of the course of treatment, I will get a second high-resolution MRI of my optic nerves to compare with the original, done six months post-attack.  That should allow me to see any physiological changes directly attributable to this modality.  I have also had three visual field tests to date, which show a slow degradation of visual sensitivity.  If I notice a marked increase in vision, I will spring for another round of tests to quantify any improvements.
Next week, I will quantify and list all herbal and supplemental modalities, including brand names where applicable.  I am standardizing the quantity, quality and timing of all these things, to the greatest extent possible.
Results – Week One
Overall, I have noticed a marked increase in color sensitivity across my full field of view.  It began with the color yellow, but now includes reds and greens, though the latter are still weak and limited to certain hues.
My sense of balance is strengthening and I am able to walk more confidently.  The numbness in my feet is slowly going away, however the result is somewhat annoying, like when your feet warm up after being extremely cold.  There is a warm sensation and slight ache or burning feeling, and the muscles tend to get tense.  On the other hand, I can feel out to the tips of the toes, which before were without sensation at all from the root of the toe to the tip, on the middle three toes of both feet.
The annoying muscle spasms in both lower legs tend to stop for about 24 hours post-treatment, though they slowly return after that, although with lower intensity.  I have not experienced any hand tremors at all in the past week.
The tinnitus (ringing in the ears) has decreased quite a bit.  The right ear was worse than the left, and the sin she has focused on the right.  The general level of tinnitus is down quite remarkably.  Consequently, I am able to hear better, especially in noisy/crowded situations.
On the second visit, the sin she noticed I was suffering from my occasional bouts of sinusitis, caused by the general low air quality in Jakarta.  She added two needles on either side of my nose, which have led to a greatly enhanced sense of smell.  This is either a blessing or a curse, given some of the lovely smells encountered here-abouts.  My sinuses have also opened rather dramatically, though the overall amount of mucous hasn’t changed much.
The most dramatic change is my night vision.  Prior to treatment, I was basically limited to seeing lights against a completely black background, at distances of more than 5-10 feet.  After the second treatment, I could see cars, people, buildings, and other details, as well as colors at night.  Before my first attack two years ago, I had very acute night vision.  I could literally read by star light.  A full moon was as good as daylight to me.  For the past two years, I have had almost no night vision at all.  Crossing streets alone at night was all but impossible.
Before receiving any treatments, I checked the color bars and sharpness chart.  I could easily make out the blue areas on the bars, as well as black and white, however the contrast chips were invisible.  The red bar appeared dark gray, and the green was light gray.  The CMY bars appeared to be off-white, perhaps bone-white or antique white, to use common descriptions.  Tonight, I can clearly see the yellow and cyan bars.  I can perceive a slight reddish color and the green appears yellowish.  Overall, color response is greatly improved.  I can also see all three contrast chips in the bottom center.
On the sharpness chart, I could make out gross detail at the 1-meter distance.  The areas containing fine lines tended to blur together and ‘shimmer.’  I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but my eyes appear to have areas that are worse than others, so that there are blind spots across the field of view.  This causes a ‘shimmering’ effect, or moiré, when I look at fine detail from a distance.  There seems to be a slight increase in ‘cloudiness,’ but at some level I am seeing more detail, because I am not stumbling as much when I walk.  Today I feel like there was a decrease in visual acuity, while at the same time an increase in other benefits.
As for the treatment itself, it is uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful.  When inserting the needles, it’s not unlike getting shots in my face.  It is made more uncomfortable because the needles are being inserted directly into the nerves, so there is a ‘pinching’ sensation that is distinctly different from hitting muscle tissue.
The electrical stimulation is annoying, but not really painful until today.  The power level was increased today, which caused my jaw to jerk spasmodically in rhythm with the jolts.  I had to literally hold my mouth open to keep from biting my tongue or clamping my teeth 10 times a minute.  So far, the electo-stimulation is only connected to the facial needles, and I can distinctly feel each one when she plugs it in.
The first treatment involved 10 needles, with six in my face, one in each hand and one in each foot.  The second used 13, and today I had 15.  In fact, today I had two in the crown of my head, one behind my right ear, and an extra one between the ring and pinky fingers of my right hand.  Also, the needles in my feet moved from between the arch and big toe, to the inside root of the big toes.
Tonight I have a slight headache centered around the area at the base of my skull and top of my neck, where two of the needles are placed.  There is another sore spot just in front of my right ear.  Otherwise, there are no lasting pains from the needles.
In general, there seems to be an immediate intense effect, with hyper-sensitivity that lasts for about 24 hours, then it slowly subsides.  The effect is something like ‘three steps forward, two steps back.’
There does seem to be an accumulative effect.  If I start each treatment at 1, then within 30 minutes of completing the treatment, I reach a level of 10, and by the time I come for the next treatment, I have retreated to maybe 3 or 4.  However, the level 1 is higher each time, as is the level 10.
Conclusions
There is definitely some benefit to the treatments.  The strongest results, both objectively and subjectively, have been in tactile and color responses.  There has been a subjective increase in night vision, but visual acuity has been up and down.  Each session has slight modifications, as far as needle placement and number, with the latest treatment having a significantly higher electro-stimulus component.
There seems to be a quantitative advancement with each session, though there is an initial ‘hyper’ state beginning roughly 30 minutes post-treatment and lasting about 24 hours.  After that, there is a general pull-back to a point that is generally better than the previous state.
I will continue to pursue the treatment, as there is a definite positive cost-benefit correlation.
Tune in next week for part 3.

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