Many Americans visit chiropractors to treat pain, often without telling their doctors.
And they couldn’t take into account any eye complications that might result from it, says Yannis Paulus, MD, a retinal specialist at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.
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It has been shown that the energetic thrusts and rotations sometimes performed when manipulating the neck at high speed put a strain on the eye. The resulting damage to blood vessels in the retina can also lead to abnormal bleeding in the eye and loss of vision.
This was the case of a 59-year-old woman who had a tadpole-shaped spot in her sight on her way home from a chiropractor visit – – the next day her eyesight deteriorated. She had just received a high-speed manipulation of the cervical spine to help with her headache.
The woman’s eyesight normalized in about two weeks without treatment.
Following an examination by Nicholas Belill, OD, the patient was referred to a retinal specialist at the Kellogg Eye Center. The ophthalmologists jointly reported the rare case in the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports.
Because the cells of the retina are so sensitive, even small injuries to the blood vessels can lead to vision problems.
Therefore, Paul encourages patients to report their alternative medicine activities – – and for doctors to actively listen and inform them about possible side effects.
Risks from chiropractic care
Cardiovascular experts have spoken out about the health risks of chiropractic treatment.
High speed neck manipulation has been linked to a certain type of strokeor a vertebral artery dissection, which prompted the American Heart Association to issue a warning in 2014.
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The short, quick movements of neck manipulation can cause a small tear in the arterial walls in the neck. The injury to the artery wall can lead to a stroke if a blood clot forms at the site, which later breaks off to block a blood vessel in the brain.
Eye problems can follow, including double vision or occlusion of the central retinal artery, a blockage in the artery that carries oxygen to nerve cells in the retina in the back of the eye.
“Chiropractic manipulation has been linked to numerous eye diseases, mainly due to damage to the carotid artery,” Paulus says of a major artery in the neck that carries blood to the brain and head.
However, the case at Kellogg suggests a new complication: direct damage to the structures in the eye due to the force of the neck adaptations.
It is the first case report of chiropractic care to result in multiple pretinal bleeding, authors say.
Other complications are possible
The magazine article points out the potential for rapid neck rotations to disrupt the vitreous humor – – the clear, gel-like substance that fills the eye between the lens and retina.
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In the patient studied, Paulus, the high-speed technique may have induced posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD, which occurs when the vitreous detaches from the retina.
No special treatment is required for PVD. Most patients notice flashes in their eyesight after three months and no more “Floater” According to the American Society of Retina Specialists, they tend to improve.
Complications from PVD are rare but can be serious and in some cases require urgent treatment such as laser treatment to seal the retinal tear or surgery to detach the retina.
Although the association with chiropractic care is considered to be temporal, the timing of the patient’s eye symptoms after the chiropractic visit is difficult to ignore.
Paul did not rule out future chiropractic visits for the patient, but noted that “her chiropractor may need to change the techniques used during her visits”.