Leber’s optic atrophy is a hereditary condition usually transmitted through the mother, in which gradual loss of central vision occurs due to degeneration of nerve cells in the retina. This condition is usually observed in adult young males. The vision loss can be either acute or sub-acute, and is usually observed in one eye, followed a few weeks to a few months later by the other eye. There is no specific treatment for this condition in the modern system of medicine. Conservative management of Leber’s optic atrophy includes regular supervision and monitoring, and avoiding the use of substances which are known to aggravate this condition. These include the use of tobacco, alcohol, and medications like ethambutol and some anti-hypertensive medicines.
Ayurvedic medicines have a special role to play the management and treatment of Leber’s optic atrophy, since there is no specific treatment for this condition in the modern system of medicine. Treatment involves the use of high doses of herbal medicines which have a specific action on the retina, and which also strengthen the optic nerve. According to the basic principles of Ayurveda, the eye is made up of the ‘Majja’ tissue in the body and hence, all medicines which act on this tissue are equally useful in the management of vision loss due to Leber’s optic atrophy. Majja is closely related to the ‘Rakta’ tissue in the body and hence, by this logic, all herbal medicines which act on the Rakta tissue are equally effective in the management of this condition.
Herbal medicines which have a specific action on the eyes include Saptamrut Loh, Punarnava Mandur, Panchtikta Ghrut Guggulu, Triphala Ghrut, and Maha Triphala Ghrut. Medicines which have a direct action on the retina and optic nerve include Bruhat Vat Chintamani, Vasant Kusumakar Ras, Pathyadi Qadha, Dashmoolarishta, Saraswatarishta, and Brahmin Vati. Herbal combination medicines as well as herbo-mineral medicines which are useful in the treatment of Leber’s optic atrophy includes Maha Manjishtadi Qadha, Saarivadi Vati, Abhrak Bhasma, Heerak Bhasma, Lohasav, and Mandur Bhasma.
Single herbal medicines useful in the treatment of Leber’s optic atrophy include Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Haridra (Piper longum), Daruharidra (Berberis aristata), Triphala (Three fruits), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Usheer (Vetiveria zizanoidis), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Patol (Tricosanthe dioica), Patha (Cissampelos pariera), Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Kutaj (Holharrhina antidysentrica), and Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia),
Early treatment with Ayurvedic herbal medicines is important in order to bring about the maximum possible recovery and improvement in vision. Usually, medicines need to be given for prolonged periods ranging from 12 to 18 months. The aim of treatment is to control the condition, prevent further degeneration of nerve cells in the retina, stabilize, and improve the retina and optic nerve to the maximum extent possible, so that optimum vision can be salvaged.
Oral therapy with herbal medicines can also be supplemented with localised therapy which includes a special procedure known as Akshi Tarpan. This procedure involves the retention of herbal, medicated oils and ghee (clarified butter) on the eyes for specific periods. Medicated herbal eye drops can also be used along with oral treatment. Ayurvedic herbal treatment thus has a definite role to play in the management of Leber’s optic atrophy.