Optic atrophy refers to changes in the color and structure of the optic disc associated with variable degrees of visual dysfunction. Optic atrophy may be classified into hereditary, consecutive, circulatory, metabolic, demyelinating, pressure, post inflammatory and traumatic types. Degeneration of the retina and the optic nerve due to different patho-physiological processes is believed to be the cause of this disease.
The Ayurvedic treatment of optic atrophy is aimed at preserving vision, slowing down or reversing the degeneration in the retina and optic nerve and treating the cause, if known. Medicines like Tapyadi-Loh, Punarnavadi-Mandur, Saptamrut-Loh, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Punarnavadi-Guggulu, Triphala-Ghrut, Vat-Gajankush-Ras and Maha-Vat-Vidhwans-Ras are used to preserve vision and to prevent or halt the degeneration in the retina and optic nerve. Herbal medicines like Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Behada (Terminalia bellerica), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) and Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) can also be used for this purpose. Triphala (Three fruits) is a herbal combination which is recommended in the Ayurvedic texts as the mainstay of treatment for most of the diseases of the eyes.
In addition, medicines which act on the ‘Rakta’ and ‘Majja’ dhatus (tissues) are helpful in this condition. These include medicines like Patol (Tricosanthe dioica), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Patha (Cissampelos pareira), Musta (Cyperus rotundus) and Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). Medicines like Suvarna-Parpati, Suvarna-Malini-Vasant and Abhrak-Bhasma are used in minute doses along with the above-mentioned medicines in order to improve the therapeutic response.
A special procedure called ‘Akshi-Tarpan’ is used for patients with a risk of complete loss of eye vision. In this procedure, a paste is applied around the eyes, and the eyes are then submerged in warm, medicated liquids like Triphala-Ghrut, Yashtimadhuk-Ghrut or Panch-Tikta-Ghrut for a few minutes. At the end of the procedure, the medicine is drained, the paste is removed and the eyes are then cleaned. The entire procedure is repeated at specific intervals and is believed to help in preserving vision in the eyes and promoting regeneration of the optic nerve. Another procedure which is believed to help in optic atrophy is blood-letting from the skin around the eyes with the application of leeches.
It is important to treat the known causes of this condition. Optic atrophy is believed to be an end-stage disease and therefore, it is important to initiate treatment at the earliest possible in order to limit the damage to the optic nerve. All such patients should be under the regular care and supervision of an Ophthalmologist.