Purpose: The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment option for treating the condition of dry eye.
Methods: We searched the literature using 14 databases from their inceptions to 3 December 2009, without language restrictions. We included randomized clinical trials (RCTs) comparing acupuncture with conventional treatment. Their risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane criteria.
Results: Six RCTs met all the inclusion criteria. Three RCTs compared the effects of acupuncture with artificial tears in patients with xerophthalmia or Sjögren syndrome. A meta-analysis of these data showed that acupuncture improved tear break-up times (p < 0.0001), Schirmer test scores (p < 0.00001), response rates (p = 0.002) and the region of cornea fluorescent staining (p = 0.0001) significantly more than artificial tears did. The other three RCTs compared the effects of acupuncture plus artificial tears with artificial tears alone. Two of these studies failed to show significant effects of acupuncture, while one reported significant effects. For Schirmer test scores and frequency of artificial tear usage, two RCTs reported superior effects of acupuncture plus artificial tears, while one RCT failed to do so.
Conclusion: These results provide limited evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating dry eye. However, the total number of RCTs, the total sample size and the methodological quality were too low to draw firm conclusions.