by Dan Roberts
originally published January 20, 2003
MCS is a form of electrical acupuncture involving microcurrent stimulation applied at points around the eyes and elsewhere on the body. Expectations are that the stimulation will boost the cells’ ability to rid themselves of waste products and raise the levels of nourishment and oxygenation by increasing blood flow. After approximately seven office visits during the first two weeks of treatment, the patient continues self-treatment by purchasing a portable microcurrent machine.
MCS as a treatment for retinal degeneration has not yet undergone approved scientifically-controlled clinical trials. Its use for that purpose is not sanctioned by the FDA, and the cost (up to $1800) is not covered by Medicare. Even in the absence of approved trials, some eye care professionals are promoting it as a safe and effective method for treating macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt’s disease, and other retinopathies that lead to partial or total blindness.
According to the FDA, microcurrent stimulation machines have been cleared for “the symptomatic relief of chronic (long-term) intractable pain and as an adjunctive treatment in the management of post-surgical traumatic pain problems.” The machines have not been cleared for treating retinal conditions. Within the past two years, the FDA issued warning letters to at least two low vision practitioners, Dr. Damon Miller and Dr. George Khouri, stating that their use of microcurrent stimulation machines for treating retinal disease is being done without “premarket approval or premarket clearance,” and that promoting them for “claims of age-related macular degeneration is a violation of the law.”
Motivated by empirical evidence and preliminary reports of success with the treatment, John Jarding, O.D. and Edward Paul, O.D., are currently trying to initiate separate clinical trials to research the merits of MCS. A previous attempt by Damon Miller, O.D., under sponsorship of the Macular Degeneration Foundation, was abandoned, due to lack of funding.