Welcome to my blog

Acupuncture specialist for Fertility, Facial rejuvenation, Pain relief, Fatigue.
Based at Harley Street and Kensington Central London.Qualified as a medical doctor in Western medicine in China with a Medical degree from Beijing, China and a PhD degree from the UK. Over 25 year research and clinical experiences

Doctor who is passionate about acupuncture

I love what I do, I am good at it and I am always there for my patients. If you come and see me, you will know why I am standing out.
This blog is to introduce latest development and research of acupuncture and offer a chance of awareness of more treatment options for your condition. The blog is for information purpose only.

About Me

My photo

My specialised areas include fertility, facial rejuvenation, acne, vulvodynia, various pain conditions, chronic fatigue, neurological conditions, digestive problems

Practice contact for appointments and addresses 

Kensington: for appointments at Anamaya center Kensington (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays) please call at 02030110355 or email at info@anamaya.co.uk
Address: 1 Adam and Eve Mews, Kensington, London W8 6UG
2 min walk from High Street Kensington underground station

Harley Street: for appointments  at Harley Street (Wednesdays) please call ALO clinic at 02076368845 or email at info@aloclinic.com
Address
Suite 3 Harmont House
20 Harley Street, London W1G 9PH
5 min walk from Oxford Circus underground station

My background: I became a qualified medical doctor 25 years ago in Western medicine  in China and was well trained in Western medicine together with Chinese medicine in the best Medical University in Beijing, China. Particularly I was trained with Dr Zheren Xuan--famous orthopedics expert and founder of soft tissue surgery in China. Furthermore I had training in dermatology and oral and maxilofacial surgery in China. Also I had training in fertility and had research experiences in uterine smooth muscles and blood vessels in China and the UK. I am dedicated to treat patients with acupuncture and am recognised as one of the world leading acupuncture specialists.

I obtained a PhD degree in the University of Leeds in the UK.
I had post doctoral training and worked as a senior researcher in St George's hospital, London, UK.
I had frequently presented my research findings in the top international conferences in the field.
I have many publications including ebooks and articles.

I have many year clinical experiences. Over the years of practising, I have developed unique treatment approaches for infertility, skin aging, acne, vulvodynia, bladder pain, neck pain, headache, migraine, shoulder pain, back pain, fatigue, hot flushes, nerve pain, chronic prostatitis, Parkison's disease, MS, acid reflex, IBS etc to achieve best treatment results. 

My devotion and skills are highly praised by my patients. 

My eBooks

Know your ovary to get pregnant
Know fertility and acupuncture to get pregnant
Vulvodynia, is vulval pain in your mind
Energy fatigue and acupuncture
Headaches, Neck pain and shoulder pain

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Why live with pain? acupuncture helps to have pain free.

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain conditions

Acupuncture is called ancient art and has been used in Asia for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. It is now being recognised in western countries, such as USA and European countries. It is used to ease back pain, nerve pain and other pain conditions.

If a pain last over 3 month, it is chronic. Chronic pain is a common condition. It can occur in many places such as low back pain, neck pain, headache, migraine and knee pain. Chronic pain in the muscles and joints can make life miserable. Many simple treatments like ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and appropriate exercises can often ease the pain. If these methods don’t work, not everyone is able or willing to take pain medication every day, and not everyone can or should have surgery for painful conditions.

Chronic pain is very common and difficult to manage. Apart from pain killers, acupuncture is well accepted to treat chronic pain conditions. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) plays an important role to reduce pain and improve quality of life for those who suffer from chronic pain. A survey by MG Tan et al from Singapore studied the use of CAM in chronic pain patients in Singapore. They found that 84% of patients used CAM at some point of their life. 30% of patients used CAM for other reasons instead of chronic pain. 35% of patients used for both pain and non pain conditions. Acupuncture was the most utilised which is 49%, followed by Chinese herbs (18%), Tui Na (17%) and massage (16%). Many patients were on more than one form of the CAM. 72% patients thought that CAM helped with their pain. 26% patients used CAM because conventional medicine did not work. 38% thought it was safer and had fewer side effects. 24% of patients thought it was cheaper. 85% of patients were satisfied. Many patients did not discuss the use of CAM with their doctor, mainly because they thought that CAM is more natural and safe.

Acupuncture has little side effects and well tolerated. A survey from people accepted acupuncture treatment has shown that 46% said acupuncture helped greatly, 26% said it helped in some degree and 28% said there was little help. Research showed that lower back pain is the most common reason for visiting acupuncturists. Usage of acupuncture has increased enormously in recent 10 years.

Recently, Mao et al reviewed clinical research of a few chronic pain condition treatments with acupuncture including lower back pain, knee pain, neck pain and headache. Low back pain is the most common reason for visits to acupuncturists. Recent 10 years, using high quality randomized controlled trials study acupuncture has increased enormously. Most of them have shown that acupuncture treatment is effective to lower back pain and it is better than no treatment or equivalent to other conventional treatments. The situation of knee pain with acupuncture treatment is pretty similar to lower back pain which is acupuncture is better than no treatment. For neck pain treatment with acupuncture some controlled trials suggested that acupuncture is better than or equivalent to physiotherapy. Some study suggested that acupuncture is better than massage and dry needling in motion-related neck pain. In a study on headache, it showed that acupuncture reduced headache frequency and severity, and at the same time it also improves headache related quality of life. There is a review about acupuncture for chronic pain by Vickers AJ et al just published in Arch Intern Med (2012). They analysed 29 clinical randomized controlled trials involving in 17922 patients to investigate the effect of acupuncture for 4 chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain. In the primary analysis, including all eligible trials, acupuncture was superior for both sham and no acupuncture control for each pain condition. After exclusion of an outlying set of trials that strongly favoured acupuncture, the effect sizes were similar across pain conditions analysed. Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain. They concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and it is more than a placebo. Acupuncture is clearly a treatment option.

It becomes general knowledge that acupuncture releases pain effectively. However the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain relief is still coming up for debate and there are always some clinical trials showing lack of effect compared with control. What is the reason for this? Macpherson et al analysed clinical trials involving patients with headache and migraine, osteoarthritis, and back, neck and shoulder pain. There were many different types of controls used in the trials including sham controls such as non-needle sham, penetrating sham needles and non-penetrating sham needles and non sham control such as non-specified routine care and protocol-guided care. They analysed the impact of choice of control on effect of acupuncture. They found that acupuncture was significantly superior to all categories of control group. For trials that used penetrating needles for sham control, acupuncture had smaller effect sizes than for trials with non-penetrating sham or sham control without needles. Large effects of acupuncture were seen after exclusion of outlying studies. In trials with non-sham controls, larger effect sizes associated with acupuncture vs. non-specified routine care than vs. protocol-guided care. From this study it can be seen that acupuncture is significantly superior to control irrespective of the subtype of control. Penetrating needles can have positive effects which should be avoided as a control in the study.

Recently a study analysed 29 clinical trials involved in 17922 patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture. This study suggested that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache and acupuncture is a reasonable option. There is scientific evidence how acupuncture works. Many research suggested that acupuncture relives pain by affecting neurotransmitters, hormone levels, or the immune system.

What is important when using acupuncture to treat chronic pain

Many researches with huge sample sizes showed that acupuncture is effective to treat chronic pain. Acupuncture is not a standardized treatment method. If you see different acupuncturists, you would receive acupuncture with different characteristics for sure. There are different styles of acupuncture, Chinese acupuncture, Western acupuncture or mixed Chinese and Western acupuncture, which are based on different theories. Even for the same style of acupuncture, the duration and frequency of the treatments could be different performed by different acupuncturists. The points used could be different as well. Additional usage of electrostimulation or electroacupuncture, moxibustion or manipulation could be applied by some acupuncturists.

From research point of view, there is a great variation of acupuncture characteristics. MacPherson et al analysed the research trials for acupuncture effect on chronic pain. Majority of research trials (59%) was based on traditional Chinese acupuncture and majority of points (55%) selected were flexible. Most of the research trials are manually stimulated and only a few trials used electrical stimulation and a few trials added with moxibustion. Attempts to obtain de qi sensation were made in all 25 trials which provided this information. The maxium number of sessions varied broadly from 3 to 30 and duration of sessions also varied from 15-32 minutes. The needles or points used were range from 1-18 points. The frequency of treatment was from one session every eight days to two sessions a week.

Their results showed that when comparing acupuncture with sham acupuncture controls, there was little evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain were modified by any of the acupuncture characteristics evaluated, including style of acupuncture, number or placement of needles, the number, frequency or duration of sessions, patient-practitioner interactions and experience of the acupuncturist. When comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, better pain outcomes were obtained when more needles were used and also when a higher number of acupuncture treatment sessions were provided. They conclude that there was little evidence that different characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists modified the effect of treatment on pain outcomes. Increased number of needles and more sessions are associated with better outcomes when comparing acupuncture to non acupuncture controls. They suggested that dose is the key factor.

There was a report that investigated the outcomes of acupuncture for chronic pain in urban primary care from New York. Patients selected for the acupuncture treatment were over 21 years old with chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis or neck or back pain. Acupuncture was provided by supervised acupuncture students for up to 14 weeks. Pain and function were evaluated before during and after acupuncture treatment. They found that back pain was the most common referring diagnosis 59.5% followed by osteoarthritis 16.3%. Pain severity and function significantly improved at 12 and 24 weeks after baseline assessment. They concluded that weekly acupuncture improved pain severity and quality of life.

Why can acupuncture be used to relive pain?

Acupuncture can act as a pain killer and it is used in many conditions and helps relieve pain. The mechanism is studied by modern research. Studies have shown that pressure pain threshold is increased after acupuncture treatment. The effect could be long-term and short-term. Studies have also shown that acupuncture reduced sensitivity to noxious thermal stimuli which could be mechanical (such as pinching or tissue deformation), chemical (such as exposure to acid or ittitant) or thermal (such as high or low temperature). Sensory threshold changes were equally frequent reported after manual acupuncture as after electroacupuncture. Acupuncture affects sensory perception. Results are most convincing for the pressure pain threshold, especially in pain conditions associated with tenderness.

Acupuncture is used for women with chronic pelvic pain

If you've had pelvic pain for six months or more that either comes and goes or is continuous, it is known as chronic pelvic pain (CPP). CPP is more intense than ordinary period pain and lasts for longer. It affects around one in six women. A research paper studied the prevalence of and factors associated with use of complementary health approaches mong women with CPP. The result has shown that slightly over one-half (51%) of women with CPP used at least one complementary health approach in the past year, including acupuncture (8%), special foods or diets (22%), herbs (27%), and vitamins and minerals (29%). During follow-up surveys conducted annually for 4 years, a substantial proportion of women (44.8%) used complementary health approaches at more than half of the assessments. Users of complementary health approaches were more likely to undergo a hysterectomy or oophorectomy or to use gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists or opioids during the study compared with nonusers. Women with CPP who used complementary health approaches also had more optimal health-related quality of life measured by the Pelvic Problem Impact Questionnaire.

Acupuncture is the best option for depression with pain problems

Up to about 70% patients with depression also have pain problems. Depression may make the pain problem worse and more pain may make depression worse as well. The existing research data has shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for several chronic pain conditions. Acupuncture is also suggested to treat depression, though this is not available option in NHS. Counselling for depression is widely available in primary care practices, however there is limited evidence for counselling compared to usual care as a treatment for patients with depression and a chronic physical health problem. Recently a report compared acupuncture or counselling with usual care alone for 755 patients with depression complicated with pain. They found that at 3 months, both acupuncture and counselling interventions were effective for depression compared to usual care alone whether there was pain or not. Patients in the pain group had greater reductions in both depression symptoms with acupuncture from baseline to 3 months than those who received counselling or usual care. All treatment options were effective in reducing pain between baseline and 3-month follow-up after controlling for baseline pain, however, acupuncture delivered a greater degree of pain relief than counselling or usual care in the short-to-medium term. Reductions in both depression and pain were most marked in the acupuncture group, followed by the counselling group and then the usual care group.

Acupuncture is effective for muscle pain

Muscle pains are common and can involve more than one muscle. Muscle pain also can involve ligaments, tendons, and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones, and organs. Muscle pain is most frequently related to tension, overuse, or muscle injury from exercise or physically-demanding work. In these situations, the pain tends to involve specific muscles and starts during or just after the activity. It is usually obvious which activity is causing the pain. Trapezius muscle is a large superficial muscle that extends longitudinally from the skull to the upper back and laterally to the shoulder blade. Its functions are to move the scapulae and support the arms. These muscles are usually overused and painful due to much stress and improper postures.

Acupuncture is a useful tool to release trapezius muscle pain. There were 20 women aged ranging from 18 to 40 years with upper trapezius muscle pain for average 5.55 years. They were treated with acupuncture After 9 sessions of acupuncture treatments, a reduction in pain intensity was observed on the upper trapezius muscle on both sides. The Pain pressure threshold increased significantly on both sides at the end of the treatment. A significant increase in the electromyography values of the trapezius during isometric contraction was observed at the end of treatment.

Acupuncture for myofascial pain

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) refers to pain and inflammation in the body’s soft tissues. This is a chronic condition that affects the fascia which is connective tissue that covers the muscles. Myofascial pain syndrome may involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. The person experiences pain either in the area where the pain originated or in other area where is far from the pain originated. Myofascial pain is mainly caused by injury such as injury to the muscles, excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament or tendon, or injury to muscle fibers. Other causes include repetitive motions or lack of activity. The symptoms of myofascial pain include pain with tender points. The pain can be worse with activity or stress. Pharmacological therapies include anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. Acupuncture can help reduce pain and inflammation to treat myofascial pain. Acupuncture has been widely used for acute or chronic pain management.

Why can acupuncture treat myofascial pain?

In TCM theory, the entire human body is composed of sophisticated interconnected inner systems, which there is an “energy (Qi)” that flows through “meridian (or channels)” in each organ. When the flow of Qi is blocked, pain occurs. By inserting and appropriate manipulating a needle into some points, the channel could be unblocked, thereby reestablishing the free and normal flow of Qi and relieving the pain. Most acupoints are located along one of these channels (some are exceptional).

Recent research has shown that acupuncture has analgesic effect. Acupuncture at one hand acupoint induced a gradual increase in skin pain threshold. Acupuncture induces endogenous opiates release from the pituitary gland into plasma and cause analgesia in the central nerve system. Acupuncture releases neuropeptides inhibiting the primary sensory neurons in the spinal cord. These substances also help reducing inflammation and reducing inflammation response.

Acupuncture is for chronic musculoskeletal pain, which acupuncture points are more effective?

Chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) is very common which happens to one in four people. More and more people used acupuncture for pain relief for CMP. If you do choose acupuncture, you need to know that there is diverse usage of acupuncture points for pain relief. Commonly, a combination of local and distant points is used. However, the difference between the effects of local and distant point stimulation is not clear. Recently a review investigated this subject. They studied a difference in effects between stimulating local and distant points, and the combination of both when compared with either alone. Nineteen were included in the qualitative analysis and 15 in the meta-analysis. Local and distant point stimulation was more effective than their respective controls in pain reduction immediately after treatment. Three studies directly compared the stimulation of local and distant points and found no significant difference between the two. No studies compared combined local and distant point stimulation with either alone. Subgroup analyses showed that, local tender point stimulation was more effective than local acupuncture points. Local and distant point stimulation induces similar degree of acupuncture analgesia. The benefit of combining local and distant point stimulation is unknown. However, subgroup analyses suggested that local tender points could be important in the treatment of CMP for short-term pain relief.


References
Hopton A BMJ Open (2014) 4:e004964
Macpherson H et al PLoS One (2014) 9:E93739
Tan MG et al Ann Acad Med Singapore (2013) 42:133-7
Vikers AJ et al Arch Intern Med (2012) 10:1-10
Mao et al Prim Care (2010) 37:105-117
MacPherson et al PLOS ONE (2013) 8:e77438
J Am Board Fam Med (2013) 26:692-700
Aranha et al Rev Bras Fisioter (2011) 15:371-9
Chou LW et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med (2012) 2012:705327
Wong Lit Wan D et al Eur J Pain (2015) Feb 17. doi: 10.1002/ejp.671. [Epub ahead of print]
Bastos JL et al J Acupunct Meridian Stud (2013) 6:163-8
Iannuccelli C et al Clin Exp Rheumatol (2012) 30:112-6
http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357513
Baeumler PI et al PLoS One (2014) 9:e113731

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a degenerated central (brain and spinal cord) nervous system disorder. The insulating nerve cover in the brain and spine is targeted and damaged by the immune system. This results in loss of function of the nervous system causing various symptoms depending which nerves are affected most. There are 2.3 milion people worldwide suffer MS. Medical management limits the frequency and intensity of disease activity, but only for persons with relapsing-remitting MS. The most common type of MS is relapsing-remitting (RR) MS. In this type, s series of attacks followed by complete or partial disappearance of the symptoms until another attack occurs. It may be weeks to years between the attacks. The symptoms can be from mild to severe. Vision disturbances could be the first sign of MS. Limb weakness with or without difficulty of coordination and balance could be early symptom. Other common symptoms include muscle spasm, fatigue, numbness and pricking pain. Loss of sensation, speech impediment, tremors or dizziness can exist. Mental changes include lack of concentration and attention, memory loss, impaired judgment and performing sequential tasks, depression etc. Sexual dysfunction and reduced bowl and bladder control can develop as the disease worsens. Early treatments are recommended for patients with MS. Apart from medications, patients with MS are seeking complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as an additional treatment option.

Acupuncture has been used in the management of neurologic conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson's disease. Acupuncture is also used in treating MS. There are also some studies on the effect of acupuncture on MS. This study is involved in a few aspects such as MS quality of life, MS fatigue, MS spasticity and MS pain.

For example, there is a case report of a sixty-five-year-old male with a twenty-year history of MS. The patient was received with Chinese scalp acupuncture once a week for ten weeks, then once a month for six more sessions. There was significant improvement in well-being, gait, balance, spasms, and incontinence. Another study has shown that after electroacupuncture of 10 weeks on nine MS patients with bladder dysfunction, mean urge frequency decreased significantly and mean number of daytime leaking episodes decreased. A study by McGuire examined the effect of acupuncture on the fatigue of a fifty-year-old female with MS who received twenty minutes of acupuncture once a week for seven weeks. There were reports of improvement on fatigue. Another study on twenty MS patients received twelve sessions of acupuncture over two months following an unsuccessful trial of the antifatigue medication Amantadine. Five of the twenty patients recorded improved scores on the FSS. Also there was a report that acupuncture improved coordination and fewer slips and trips with effects lasting for eight months in MS patient.

A study evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture in treating forty-nine MS patients with chronic pain using a case series pretest/posttest design. Patients received biweekly acupuncture treatments for six months and noticed significant improvements in the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI).

From these studies we can see acupuncture is a potential treatment option for MS patients, though much of the research needed for the efficacy of acupuncture.

There was a report by Kerr Grieve et al from Tayside MS research unit, Ninewells hospital and medical school, Dundee, Scotland. They had positive data to support that acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain and other MS symptoms. There were 20 patients with MS involved in the research. 85% were female aged 20 to 60 years. Duration of diagnosis was 1-29 years. All of the patients had been attending the clinic for between 3 and 24 months. The majority were receiving acupuncture on six weekly bases. 18 patients had some reduction in pain. 9 patients scored the level of pain relief as 8/10 or better. 18 patients had pain relief for four or more weeks. Improvement of sleep pattern, mood, energy levels and mobility was also subjectively improved, though not as much as pain relief. 9 patients had a temporary increase in pain. 55% of patientsreduced their use of pain killers and 3 stopped additional pain killers completely. The authors were confident that acupuncture could be a treatment for apin and other MS related symptoms for patients with MS.

Recently a survey conducted by Stoll SS et al from Neurology department in Drexel University College of Medicine Phyladelphia USA about using CAM treatment for patients with MS. 111 patients with MS completed the survey properly. All patients used non disease-modifying agents (non-DMA agents). 65 patients (58.6%) exercised on a weekly basis. 64 patients (57.7%) used CAM therapies such as acupuncture and massage, or osteopathic manipulative treatment and psychotherapy.

Quispe-Cabanillas JG et al investigated the effect of acupuncture in 31 patients with relapsing-remitting type of MS under treatment of immunomodulators. The patient’s quality of life was assessed to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture. They found that acupuncture improved various aspect of quality of life for those patients including reduction in pain and depression. Foroughipour M et al also observed the effectiveness of acupuncture in 20 patients with MS. They found that 12 sessions of acupuncture improved the fatigue symptom in patients with MS who were resistant to the medication amantadine.

References
Stoll SS et al J Am Osteopath Assoc (2012) 112:22-8
Quispe-Cabanillas JG et al BMC Complement Altern Med (2012) 12:209
Foroughipour M et al Acupunct Med (2012)
Kerr Grieve et al J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry (2013) 84:e2.
Karpakin HI et al Evid Based Completment Alternat Med (2014) 2014:972935

Sunday, 20 July 2014

High FSH to get pregnant ?Acupuncture can help

Age affects fertility

A more recent study of university students in Sweden found that half of the female students were not aware of the age-related decline in fertility and intended to have children after the age of 35. There is clear evidence of an age-related decline in female fertility. By the time women reach 35 years of age, their fertility is declining markedly. This presents that the number and quality of eggs decrease; also genetic abnormalities and spontaneous abortion increase noticeably with female age. A study involved in 1000 women in pregnancy showed that 71% of women aged 30 conceived within 3 months whereas only 41% of women aged 36 conceived within 3 months. A negative effect of increasing male age particularly in the late 30s was also found. A study involved 2112 women in pregnancy showed that increasing age for both men and women take longer time to conceive. There were some other studies presented similar results.

There is a significant decline in clinical pregnancy rate, implantation rate and delivery rate per embryo transfer associated with increasing female age in assist reproductive treatment. A recent study of all IVF clinic in Netherland found that the overall live birth rate per cycle decreased by 2% for each additional year of female age. Another study involved in 36483 treatment cycles in assist reproductive treatment reported that women aged 25-29 achieved a live birth rate of 25.9% while women aged 40-44 only achieved 6.1% live birth rate. The poor live birth rate in older women greatly attributes to spontaneous abortion

What is the best marker of reproductive age in normal women?

Study showed that a woman’s optimal fertility age is before 30-31 years. And then fertility decreases gradually and this decline is accelerated towards age of late thirties. It is generally accepted that reproductive ageing is ovarian ageing and the quantity and quality of the pool of follicles in the ovary decreases. There are many tests that are used to measure ovary function. What is the best marker to measure reproductive age? GJ Scheffer et al compared several markers. These include that antral follicle counts (2-10mm), total ovarian volume, total follicular volume, mean follicular volume, and volume of either the smallest or largest ovary; FSH, estradiol and inhibin B and the response of estradiol and inhibin B to exogenous GnRH agonist. They tested these markers on 162 healthy female volunteers aged 25-46 years. These women were proved with normal fertility and regular menstrual cycles. All marker tested excerpt inhibin B were correlated with age, but the number of antral follicles was highly correlated with age. Their conclusion is that the number of antral follicles has the closest association with age in normal women with proven fertility.

Age and mother’s menopause affect women’s fertility

Women are born with all the eggs they ever have. Women are most fertile between the ages of 18 and 31. When women are getting older, their egg quantity and quality are declining. They become less fertile. Research suggested that genetic factor contributes to women’s fertility. Women whose mothers had an early menopause had much fewer eggs in their ovaries than those mothers had a later menopause. These women with fewer eggs have fewer chances to conceive. At present there is no test that can predict women’s fertility accurately. There are two approaches to assess the supply of eggs remaining in the ovary: anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC). Researchers found that both AMH and AFC declined faster in women whose mothers had an early menopause ( before the age of 45) compared with women whose mothers had a late menopause (after the age of 55). Dr Valentine Akande, a consultant gynaecologist and spokesman for the British Fertility Society said that the findings were helpful, but that women should not be overly concerned if their mother did have an early menopause. The variation of egg quantity in women is enormous. The earlier you are trying for a baby the more chances to be successful.

With age disadvantage and high FSH you still have chance to get pregnant

When women reach their forties, their fertility falls down. As mentioned above in humans the follicles in ovaries are fixed at birth and decrease with age. The follicles are constantly disappearing either died or growing to ovulate. From the age of about 35 onwards, fertility declines quickly. This presents that the number and quality of eggs decrease; also genetic abnormalities and spontaneous abortion increase noticeably with female age. The rate of follicular depletion speeds up resulting in a decreasing number of good qualities of follicles. A protein inhibin B produced by follicles dropped and FSH is elevated in circulation. FSH is a hormone produced by pituitary gland which is located in the brain. FSH stimulates ovaries for eggs growth. If your ovaries don’t function well or you run out of eggs, your ovaries do not respond to FSH like normal ovaries do, the eggs don’t grow well. In this circumstance your pituitary gland works hard to produce more FSH trying to stimulate ovaries function and eggs to grow. As a result your FSH level is high, which means that you have poor ovarian response or poor ovarian function or poor ovarian reserve or ovarian failure. Your egg quality and quantity will be poor. Also endometrial lining became impaired as well. All of these contribute to the declined fertility with aging.

How old a woman can be to achieve pregnancy with assisted conception approach? Check JH reported a case that a 46 year old woman with high day 3 estradiol and FSH. She conceived on her third IVF-ET attempt. She delivered a healthy full term baby girl. This was believed to be the first case report of a successful pregnancy in a woman of such an advanced age with diminished ovary reserve using her own eggs. This report showed that pregnancy is possible in similar circumstance.

How high is FSH that can be treated to achieve pregnancy? There was a case report that a woman with premature ovarian failure and high FSH 164miu/ml was treated and got pregnant in her ninth cycle treatment and delivered a healthy boy.

Is there other treatment available for high FSH? Estrogen or birth control pills will temporarily suppress FSH to normal level. However this does not improve your infertility

Can acupuncture help if your FSH is higher than normal? Acupuncture can stimulate the nerve ends to the ovaries and improve ovarian blood flow and help follicles grow, as a result this restore hormonal balance and lower FSH. Acupuncture also stimulates the brain and rebalances the hormones.

NHS offers IVF to women in age 40-42

New NHS guidelines state that couples struggling to have a baby should get fertility treatment more quickly and older women should gain access to IVF. The guidelines recommend that women aged between 40-42 should be offered one cycle of IVF if it is their first time and they have enough eggs; women aged under 40 are offered three cycles of IVF. It is widely known when a woman reaches her 30s her fertility begins to decline, and this decline in fertility is speeding up in her late 30s. IVF success rate is going down with increased age. IVF success is rare in women over 45.

Why this is the case? The ovary aging is the cause of this declined fertility. It has become clear that the decline in fertility with increasing female age is largely due to a rapid decrease in egg quantity and quality with a higher proportion of eggs having genetic abnormalities. On the contrary, the reproductive capacity of the uterus does not decrease with age even in late 40s and 50s. This is seen in the use of younger donor eggs, women who are menopausal can achieve very high rates of conception.

Fertility declines with aging in both men and women and acupuncture can help.

Women are born with all eggs in the ovary which cannot be divided into other cells. The egg numbers are only declining with age. The process is speeded after women turn 35 years of age. On the contrary, there are gonocytes or primitive germ cells in the normal men’s testes. These cells can split without limitation. The cells split can become another gonocytes which could further divide; or they can become mature sperm cells. Gonocytes supply within testes can be last very long time and mature sperm cells can be produced. This is the main reason why a man’s fertility does not decrease significantly with age as women’s.

However, fertility in both men and women decreases when they reach certain age. In men semen parameters could begin to decline as early as age 35. Semen volume and motility would decrease and morphology could gradually become abnormal. After age 40, there could be notably DNA damage in their sperm; motility and viability continues declining. With an increase in age in men, the time to pregnancy for their partner increases. In women, fertility is significantly lower in the 30s and 40s. The number of eggs decline, woman’s menstrual cycle become shorter, menstrual irregularity begins 6-7 years before menopause, infertility increases, the time to pregnancy increases and also the chances of staying pregnancy becomes lower. If you start trying to get pregnant and there is still no luck, this could be not because something is wrong, but it could simply because you and your partner’s age. It takes longer for you to get pregnant. In this situation, apart from changing life style and exercises etc that you can help yourselves, why don’t you try acupuncture? Acupuncture is recommended as one of the treatments to encourage fertility by some doctors.

References
Check JH Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol (2011) 38:209-10
Check ML Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol (2004) 31:299-301
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20217735
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21505578
Fotrman EJ et al Maturitas (2011) 70:216-21
GJ Scheffer et al Human Reproduction 18:700-706
http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/getting-pregnant-easy-ways-to-encourage-fertility?page=3
Homan GF et al Human Reproduction Update (2007) 13:209-223

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Not ovulate, acupuncture improves ovulation

The ovary is a special reproductive organ in women. In ovaries follicles develop into oocytes; eggs are released from ovaries; remaining part of the follicles forms corpus luteum. This generates women’s menstrual cycles. There are three phases of menstrual cycles: follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. Each phase has distinct with featured hormone levels. The hormones are produced in three areas: hypothalamus, anterior pituitary gland and ovaries. The hypothalamus produces gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnR) which stimulates the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces both follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which stimulate the ovary. The ovary secrets estrogen and progesterone. FSH and LH inhibits production of GnRH. Low concentration of estrogen increases release of FSH from the pituitary gland. High level of estrogen decreases FSH and increases LH secretion causing LH surge. This is called hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis. This axis is in control ovulation. Any dysfunction of this axis may result in anovulation and irregular period. It also can lead to infertility caused by no ovulation. The leading cause of infertility is ovulation dysfunction, either no ovulation or irregular ovulation.

Anovulatory cycle is a menstrual cycle which ovulation does not occur and there is no egg released from the ovaries. Women would think if they have periods, they must be ovulating. This is not necessarily the case. You don’t have to ovulate to have periods. This is called anovulatory cycle. The cycles could be regular with variations of period intervals. These cycles are without ovulation and a luteal phase. Anovulation is a common cause of infertility which occurs in up to 40% of infertile women. Women without ovulating may have irregular periods, or no periods. It is possible that women with regular periods have no ovulation. Once they try to conceive and they start to detect the problem. Because no egg is released and fertilization becomes impossible, the women cannot conceive. Basal body temperature charting is a valuable tool to identify anovulation.

Normal menstrual cycles are 28 days (21-35 days) with follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. Ovulation occurs in the middle of the cycle and corpus luteum which produces progesterone forms after ovulation. After 14 days, corpus luteum decayed and stopped producing progesterone. Uterine inner lining shed off without the support of progesterone in the case without pregnancy. This is called progesterone withdrawal bleeding. In the case of anovulation, there is no progesterone produced. Bleeding is caused by inability of oestrogen to support uterine inner lining growth. It is called oestrogen breakthrough bleeding.

There are many factors that cause anovulation and here are some common causes of anovulation.

Hypothalamic-pituitary causes

Hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian-axis dysfunction. This is caused by problems of hypothalamus or pituitary gland in the brain. As a result the hormones are not balanced which does not trigger ovulation and leads to infertility. The reasons that affect hormone balance include stress (see below); the other common causes are excessive exercises and/or underweight.

As we already known that subtle environmental changes may alter the menstrual cycle and cause anovulation. For example, summer camp menstrual disturbances and exam anovulation. Women in emotional stress could have no ovulation. This is temporary situation. If women get out of the stress environment, menstruation and ovulation could be returned. However if this situation is prolonged, anovulation could be persistent. Finding the causes of stress situation and avoiding the causes are the keys for ovulation to return. Many therapies could help reduce stress, such as psychological therapy, yoga and acupuncture etc.

Ovarian causes. If ovary does not respond to FSH and LH, this also causes ovulation problem.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is commonest cause of anovulation related infertility. It explained 70% of the cases. Women with PCOS have imbalanced hormone levels. This may produce multiple cysts in ovaries, irregular period cycle, anovulation, infertility, acne and excessive hair growth and other symproms.

Premature ovarian failure (POF). In women with POF, their ovaries fail to function properly before menopause occurs. The ovaries don’t respond to FSH and there is no ovulation. They have difficulty to get pregnant.

Treatments that reduce stress can be effective to improve ovulation. Acupuncture helps treating anovulation by stimulating nerve endings and correcting hormonal imbalance. Acupuncture is very effective treatment for anovulation. Acupuncture reduces stress by regulating response to stress and altering stress related chemical substances levels; improves hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis function and regulates blood hormone level. As a consequence, it improves ovulation and pregnancy rate.

Here are some clinical reports about the effectiveness of acupuncture on anovulation.

There was a control trial with acupuncture group and control group (treated with Clomephene). 25 cases in each group were given 6 cycles treatments. And then ovulation and pregnancy rate were compared between the two groups. Ovulation rate is not significantly different between the two groups. The pregnancy rate is higher (44%) in the acupuncture group than in the control group (16%).

There was a case report from a reproductive health institute center in Sichuan in China. They reported the effectiveness of acupuncture on women with anovulation. Ovulation rate was from 70-80% and pregnancy rate was from 40% - 60%.

Recently Yan and Liu summarised some case reports about effectiveness of acupuncture on increasing ovulation. They collected 21 papers which used acupuncture treated anovulation associated infertility.

Here are some typical cases.

Chen et al treated 42 patients with infertility associated with anovulation. 41 of them ovulated.

Kou et al used acupuncture treatment for 50 cases of anovulation associated infertility. 40 of 50 patients achieved pregnancy.

Chang et al used acupuncture for 32 patients with anovulation associated infertility. 9 patients achieved pregnancy during 1-3 month of acupuncture treatment. 22 patients achieved pregnancy over 4 months of acupuncture treatments.

Case report for effectiveness of acupuncture on infertility caused by anovulation

There was a study about effectiveness of acupuncture for infertility without ovulation. There were 50 women with infertility without ovulation. There women were divided into two groups: acupuncture group and control group. Control group was treated with clomiphere and injection of chorionic gonadotropin. The period of treatment was 6 cycles and ovulation rate and pregnancy rate were measured. The results showed that there was no difference in the ovulation rate between the acupuncture group and clomiphere group. However the pregnancy rate in acupuncture group was significantly higher (44%) than that for control group (16%). In addition the score of mucus and endometrial thickness was greater in acupuncture group.

This is a case report on effect of acupuncture treatment of infertility caused by ovulatory problems. 120 patients with infertility caused by ovulatory problems were divided into two groups: acupuncture group and clomiphene control group. 3 treatment cycles were applied. Result showed that similar ovulation rate was observed in both group, but pregnancy rate was higher and abortion rate was lower in acupuncture group compared to control group.

References
Yan and Liu Shanghai J Acu-mox, (2005) 24:40-42 (针灸促排卵临床概况)
Song FJ et al Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2008) 28:21-23
Jiang and Ding Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2009) 29:21-4

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Varicocele and male infertility

Varicocele and male infertility

Infertility affects about 1 in 6 of the couples of reproductive age1. The male factor is involved in 40% - 50% of infertility cases. The most common type of male infertility is unexplained infertility, which is unknown cause. Another common cause of male infertility is varicocele which is enlarged veins in testicles. 78% - 93% of cases varicocele is located on the left side. The left internal spermatic vein inserts into the left renal vein at a right angle which leads to an increase in the hydrostatic pressure of the left spermatic vein causing its dilation. Also internal spermatic veins lack functional valves, which can lead to regression of blood. Possibly there is a partial obstruction of the left spermatic vein due to the compression of the left renal vein between the aorta and the upper mesenteric artery . Varicocele causes elevated temperature of the scrotum possibly due to reflux of warm blood from the abdominal cavity. High temperature causes thermal damage of the DNA and proteins in the nucleus of spermatic tubules' cells and / or Leydig cells. The increased vein pressure can influence testicular blood flow, cause accumulation of toxic metabolites which leads to chronic vasoconstriction and subsequent dysfunction of the spermatic epithelium. Men with varicocele have high FSH level and low sperm counts. Surgical repair of varicocele has been shown to restore the temperature in both animals and humans. However fertility potential is not always improved after surgical repair of varicocele though semen parameters were improved.

Oxidant stress and male infertility

Half of all cases of infertility have male factor involved. Oxidant stress damage to sperm is a significant contributing pathology in 30–80% of cases. What is oxidant stress? In cellular metabolism, there are free radicals produced and they can damage cells and also there are antixodants against this damage. If balance between free radicals and antioxidants is broken, oxidant stress occurs. If oxidant stress occurs in sperm, it reduces the sperm's motility and ability to fuse with the egg by damaging the sperm membrane and sperm DNA. This may cause male infertility. Oxidant stress is not screened nor treated. The possible causes of oxidant stress come from many sources such as life style including smoking, drinking alcohol, stress, environmental factors including heat, pollutions, infections, autoimmune problems, chronic disorders etc.

Management of oxidant related stress include: change life style, reduce exposure to toxic environment, treat infections and inflammations etc. Taking some supplements such as vitamine C, B complex, and E may help reducing oxidant stress. Acupuncture may help reduce oxidant stress by improving blood circulation and taking toxic free radicals away.

Sperm is impaired by inflammation and acupuncture can help

Semen quality is affected by prostate and genital tract inflammation. There was a study on 382 voluntary male subjects who underwent the screening for prostate health. Sperm motility and prostate-related parameters were significantly impaired in patients with chronic prostatitis syndromes and lower urinary tract symptoms in comparison with controls. Elevated seminal markers of inflammation were in positive association with body mass index, prostate-specific antigen, and estradiol level in serum while in negative association with semen volume, total sperm count, and sperm motility. It was suggested that one of the possible pathways for impaired reproductive quality in male subjects >45 years could be related to infection and inflammation in the genital tract with subsequent (partial) obstruction and damage of prostate and other male accessory glands. Previous study has shown that acupuncture could improve sperm parameter in men with genital tract inflammation.

What is ICSI?

ICSI stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. This procedure can be used in male factor infertility with low concentration of sperm, low sperm motility and low sperm morphology. This procedure involves that individual sperm is picked up manually and injected into the inner part of the egg. The egg is obtained through the same egg retrieval procedure as IVF. This usually results in normal fertilization in about 75-85% of eggs injected with sperm of course depending on the clinics.

Do you know acupuncture can help increase sperm counts and improve sperm motility in men with varicocele?

Acupuncture may help male fertility by lowering scrotal temperature, reducing inflammation, improving circulation and improving sperm maturation.

References
Tremellen K Hum Reprod Update (2008) 14:243-58
Kantartzi PD et al Hippokratia. (2007)11: 99–104.
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/male-infertility.html
Ausmees K et al World J Urol (2013) 31:1411-25
Siterman S et al Asian J Androl (2009) 11:200-8