Acupuncture for acute hordeolum

Full citation: Cheng K, Law A, Guo M, Wieland L, Shen X, Lao L. Acupuncture for acute hordeolum. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD011075. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011075.pub2

What is the aim of this review?
The aim of this Cochrane review was to compare the benefits and harms of acupuncture versus conventional treatments used for treating acute hordeolum (stye).

Key messages
Acupuncture, either alone or alongside conventional treatments, may increase the chance of hordeolum getting better (low-certainty evidence). There is a lack of information on adverse effects. Studies that have a longer follow-up and a more diverse study population are needed to tell if acupuncture really is a beneficial treatment.

What was studied in the review?
Hordeolum the medical name for a stye. It is a small painful lump, or abscess, on the inside or outside of the eyelid. Typically, hordeolum goes away on its own within a week or so. However, serious cases of hordeolum can infect nearby tissues and glands. This infection can result in serious eyelid conditions.

Common treatments for hordeolum include warm compresses applied at home, available over-the-counter topical medications and lid scrubs, antibiotics or steroids, lid massages, and other treatments. In East Asian countries, acupuncture is used to treat hordeolum, either alone or alongside these conventional treatments. According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese acupuncture, energy circulates in ‘meridians’ (or channels) through the body. When the meridian energy circulation is blocked by pathogenic factors, pain or ill health occurs. The way to restore health is to use fine needles to stimulate the appropriate acupuncture points in the body. The purpose of this review was to compare acupuncture with no treatment, sham acupuncture, or conventional treatment to determine which treatment works best for acute hordeolum.

What are the main results of the review?
We found six studies from China, including a total of 531 people. The follow-up was no more than seven days after treatment. Three studies compared acupuncture with different conventional treatments and three studies compared acupuncture plus conventional treatments versus conventional treatments alone.

The review showed that:

  • Acupuncture may increase the chance of the hordeolum getting better compared with using antibiotics and/or warm compresses (low-certainty evidence).
  • Acupuncture combined with antibiotics and/or warm compresses compared with antibiotics and/or warm compresses may slightly increase the chance of the hordeolum getting better (low-certainty evidence).
  • It is uncertain whether there are any harmful effects of acupuncture for hordeolum.

How up-to-date is this review?
Cochrane researchers searched for studies that had been published up to 7 June 2016.