The eyes are sensitive organs, illness and other problems are not uncommon. Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the mucous membrane (conjunctiva) covering the inside of the eyelid and the exposed part of the eyeball, is extremely common, in many cases chronic. Contagious forms (e.g. Trachoma) can irrevocably destroy tissues of the eye.
Inflamed inner parts of the eyes are always serious. They can lead to irreparable damage, and sometimes to blindness and loss of the eyeball.
A peculiar phenomenon is sympathetic ophthalmia. It occurs when an inflammation inside an eye, often caused by physical damage, spreads to the other, as yet undamaged eye. A sort of parallel connection.
The retina is susceptible to bleedings and vascular problems (a common side-effect of diabetes), with defective vision as a consequence.
The most common degenerative disease of the eyes is cataract, a clouding of the lens. Oxidation is a major cause.
There is no reason to list all known eye ailments here, most of them should be treated by a specialist anyway. Prevention, however, is another matter. For nutrition: what is good for the body in general, is also good for the eyes. But more specifically:
Vitamins A, C, and E have been proved to prevent cataract, but there is no reason to neglect the other anti-oxidants. Chromium is vital for the cornea. Bioflavonoids are essential for vascular (especially capillary) health; antocyanins are needed for pigmentation (visual purple, rhodopsin, a photosensitive pigment of the retina). Lutein (the yellow of maize) and Zeaxanthin are anti-oxidants, and they prevent macular degeneration. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids prevent macular degeneration and keep tissues elastic. Vitamin A (again), also called retinol, is important for the retina, also for continuous recreation of mucous membranes.
Against light conjunctivitis you can apply a compress soaked in herbal tea made of some anti-inflammatory ingredient, e.g.
Marigold (Calendula Officinalis/Souci/Ringelblume) or
Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla/Chamomille vulgaire/Kamille).
Note that many toxins harm the eyes. Nicotine, alcohol, quinine, arsenic, and lead generate neuritis optica, an inflammation of the optic nerve. It leads to defective vision and ultimately to blindness.
Atropine, the toxin of belladonna, paralyses the eye's muscles, and certain medical drugs can harm the lens.
A disease or ailment located in another part of the body sometimes causes eye problems. Diabetes has already been mentioned, others are liver defects and something as simple as constipation.
Another danger is UV radiation. Sunlight causes oxidation and cataract is more common in areas where the sunlight is strong. If burning, the sun can injure the retina too. If you spend much time in strong sunlight, use good sunglasses. (Also read about heat below.)
Radiation from a television or computer screen is not harmless, but to which extent it harms the eyes is unknown. More studies are needed, but it is wise to be careful.
Heat is an enemy of the eyes, which are the most heat-sensitive organs of the body. Avoid unnecessary heating. If you take a sauna, it is best to cover each eye with a compress or cloth soaked in cold water.
Defective vision can be a result of reduced elasticity and strength. The muscles of the eye, and the lens, must be in good shape to function well. If you use glasses or lenses to correct such a defect you will accelerate further deterioration of your sight. (This is as if you have weak leg muscles, so to save them you sit as much as possible - and the leg muscles just get weaker. They must be used to be kept strong.) That justifies this advice:
Do not use glasses (or lenses) unless it is absolutely necessary, not only because it is comfortable (sitting is comfortable too, for the legs, but will not be of benefit to them); and never use too strong glasses, the stronger they are, the more they will harm the tissues of the eyes. (More on this in the next section.)
Glasses appear to accelerate further deterioration more than lenses do, which may be due to their (the glasses') less stable position in relation to the eyes. The use of lenses, on the other hand, almost invariably causes a light, chronic conjunctivitis. This is not surprising. If alien material is placed against a mucous membrane, the body responds with an inflammation (or catarrh), the natural way to remove alien stuff.
The eyes are never completely still. We are not discussing spontaneous movements at this point but concentrate on deliberate and purposeful ones. Indian teachings have much to say about this, always in combination with meditation and/or breathing techniques. An explanation of that, however, is beyond the scope of this article, so let us restrict to straightforward training of the eyes only. Just one thing from an Indian source. Gheranda Samhita states:
"Gaze steadily, without blinking, at a small object held some distance away. Empty the mind and continue gazing until tears begin to flow. By practising this, all eye diseases are destroyed."
All eye diseases are not destroyed (unfortunately), but this exercise cleanses the eyes in a beneficial way.
Accommodation, adjustment of the eye to focus on different distances, is the most "heavy" motion the eyes have to accomplish; and the one which, when neglected, is most disposed to harm vision. If you gaze at a computer screen (or a book) for hours without looking up, and repeat this day after day, year after year, your eyes tend to adjust permanently. You become myopic (short-sighted). Seafarers, at least in the past, gazing at the distant horizon, tended to become long-sighted. If you use glasses to correct this sight deficiency it just becomes worse, and you get caught in a gradually growing problem.
To prevent this, change the distance of your focus now and then. If you sit in front of a computer screen, look up a few times during each session, focus your eyes on an imaginary far-away horizon. Change some times between near and far away, and return to your original activity. This will prevent stagnation, increase blood flow, and reduce the risk of developing myopia.
If you want to train your eyes systematically, I suggest the following exercises, to be done daily. All should be done standing; sitting is adequate if you are disabled or ill. Your head must at all times be kept still, only your eyes may move.
1. Hold a pencil just in front of your nose and focus your eyes on it. Keep it for 5 seconds, then change your focus to an imaginary far-away horizon, and keep that for 5 seconds. Repeat 15 times.
2. Watch the ceiling (remember not to move your head) for 5 seconds; watch the floor for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
3. Move your eyes diagonally to the upper right corner, hold for 5 seconds; then bottom left, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
4. As 3, but the opposite diagonal. Top left to bottom right.
5. Slowly roll your eyes around the rim. Begin anywhere, Do 10 times around, clockwise.
6. As 5, but counter-clockwise.
(This article is based on material previously published in Meriondho Leo and in my e-book “From Vision to Visual Music”, 2017.)
Blue Light, Blindness, Sleep Disorder & Cancer
Colour Vision & Why is Human Colour Blindness so Relatively Common?
What is an Eye? For What Purpose Do We Have Eyes?
Lutein & Zeaxanthin: Nutrients that Protect Your Eyes from Ageing
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