A number of conditions can lead to poor vision and eye health, including near-sightedness, far-sightedness, macular degeneration, presbyopia, glaucoma, astigmatism and cataracts. As we age, we become increasingly susceptible to many of those problems. However, contrary to popular mainstream dogma, such conditions can be prevented and often even successfully reversed.
Common Vision Problems
The most common vision robbing eye problems are:
Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a defect of vision caused by an imperfection in the eye, such as the eyeball being too short or the lens not being round enough. Hyperopia causes difficulty to focus on near objects and, in extreme cases, may result in the inability to focus on objects at any distance.
Myopia is the term for near-sightedness and is caused by a focusing defect in the eye which makes far-away objects appear to be blurred. This is due to the focus point being a bit outside the eye lens.
Presbyopia, which literally means “old eye”, describes an inability to focus on close objects and is caused by loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens with advancing age.
Macular degeneration is a vision robbing disorder that increases with age. The disorder damages the center of the retina, which is called the macula, and makes it difficult to see fine details. Eventually it can result in blurring of the central vision. Notably, macular degeneration is a common problem among diabetics.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that can lead to damage to the optic nerve, which is the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. In many instances, damage to the optic nerve comes from increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). There are three types of glaucoma, one of which requires immediate attention:
* Open-angle glaucoma is characterized by a gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision which is referred to as “tunnel vision”. Most people have no symptoms until they begin to have vision problems.
* Congenital glaucoma is characterized by cloudiness of the front of the eye, enlargement of one or both eyes, red eye, sensitivity to light and tearing. Symptoms are usually noticed when a child is only a few months old.
* Angle-closure glaucoma is a serious form of glaucoma where there is sudden, severe pain in one eye. Other symptoms can include decreased or cloudy vision, nausea and vomiting, rainbow-like halos around lights, red eyes and the eye feeling swollen. The symptoms of acute-angle glaucoma may come and go at first or may become steadily worse. Note: Acute-closure Glaucoma should be treated immediately as a medical emergency or else blindness may occur within only a few days.
Astigmatism blurs your vision at all distances and it occurs when the front surface of your eye (the cornea), or the lens inside your eye, has a surface curvature that is slightly different in one direction than it is in the other. Instead of being even and smooth in all directions, eye surfaces in those who have astigmatism may have some areas that are flatter or steeper. Unlike most other eye conditions, astigmatism is often present at birth. It may also occur in combination with nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Another vision concern as we age is the formation of cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. It is caused by the clumping together of proteins in the eye which are normally arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through.
Though most eye problems are usually associated with eye defects or age, problems focusing on distant as well as near objects may also be due to bad habits that cause loss of eye elasticity. Focusing for prolonged periods of time on a fixed distance, such as looking at a computer screen or reading for hours on end, is such a practice. The focusing muscle in the eye tends to lose flexibility with age anyway, but doing a lot of close-up work or otherwise spending long periods focusing at fixed lengths can cause the eye muscle to become increasingly locked in a set position. As a result, objects that are very close or very far, or both, may become increasingly blurred. Taking breaks and focusing far away can help prevent the problem and may even help restore lost vision.
Exercises for the Eyes
Many people have found that regular eye exercises help restore vision and prevent future vision problems. Such eye exercises usually include alternating focusing on distant and close objects, as well as focusing on objects at different angles, and should be done with corrective lenses removed.
For problems reading or otherwise focusing on distant objects, noted health figure Deepak Chopra suggests pinning up some reading material on the wall and then moving back a little bit each day to read it. To enhance reading and focusing at close distance, Mr. Chopra suggests moving a bit closer to the pinup material each day.
Other suggestions from Mr. Chopra include doing the following each day:
* With eyes closed, look in the direction of the sun or a full spectrum light for 15 to 20 seconds.
* Continuing to keep eyes closed gently turn the head away from the sun and back.
* To change the focal length of the lens & improve the internal muscles of the eyeballs, look at an object up close and then at a distance. For example look at your hand 6 inches from your face and then look at an object on the horizon. Repeat this exercise for 15 times without straining.
* Blink eyelids hard and rapidly for 30 seconds.
* Look up and to the left and hold this fixed position for 15 seconds.
* Look down and to the left and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look up and to the right and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look down and to the right and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look directly to the right and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look down to the end of the nose and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look down toward the tongue and hold for 15 seconds.
* Look upward and inward trying to look at the space between the eyebrows and hold for 15 seconds.
Pinhole glasses (also known as stenopeic glasses) are not actually made of glass but of an opaque substance such as metal or plastic which have several small holes the user looks through. The holes reduce the width of the bundle of diverging rays coming into the eyes and help offset refractive errors common to most eye conditions. The improvement in visual acuity can be striking.
For more information about pinhole glasses, see:
The Role of Diet in Good Eyesight
In 2009, a study published in Opthamology found that proper diet, especially a low glycemic index diet, can be very helpful in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other sight-robbing diseases. The nutrients that were found to be most protective in combination with a low-glycemic-index diet were vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA.
Though there have been no formal studies, there have been many anecdotal reports of improved vision from people who regularly use sea vegetable powder supplements and people who regularly consume super foods powders. Both of those items contain a wealth of vitamins, trace minerals, and phyto-nutrients which are often lacking in most diets. Sea vegetables are especially good sources of over 80 trace minerals that are often missing in today’s mineral-depleted soils.
Food Recommendations for Good Eyesight and Eye Health:
* Cold water fish (sardines, cod, mackerel, tuna.) are excellent sources of DHA, a compound which provides structural support to cell membranes and is recommended for dry eyes. DHA is also used as a treatment for macular degeneration and for sight preservation.
* Spinach, kale and green leafy vegetables are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein, a yellow pigment, protects the macula from sun damage and from blue light. Zeaxanthin is one of the two primary xanthophyll carotenoids contained within the retina of the eye.
* Eggs are rich in sulphur, cysteine, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. Sulphur-containing compounds protect the lens of the eye from cataract formation. Sulphur is also necessary for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant for the lens of the eye and the whole body.
* Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are also rich in sulfur.
* Fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A, C, and E and Beta-carotene.
* Dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and dark cherries are high in flavonoids and contain anthocyanins which improve night vision.
* Wine has many important antioxidants and other nutrients which protect vision, heart and blood flow. Needless to say, moderation is always important.
* Nuts and berries are nature’s most concentrated food sources. Grains, such as flaxseed, are high in the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and stabilize cell membranes.
* Virgin olive oil is a mono-unsaturated oil and is a healthy alternative to butter substitutes which contain soy, corn or canola.
Top Vitamins for Vision and Eye Health
* Vitamin A is considered by many to be the ultimate eye vitamin and is essential for the retina to function properly. It is also necessary for the production of rhodopsin, which is the visual pigment used in low light levels. Vitamin A-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, spinach, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin A also helps:
– Eyes adjust to light changes
– Moisten the eyes, which can enhance visual acuity
– Prevent the formation of cataracts
– Prevent blindness from macular degeneration.
* Vitamin C helps strengthen capillaries and builds collagen. It helps maintain the shape of the cornea, especially in cases of infection, and fights against free radicals. Vitamin C also helps prevent cataracts from developing due to UV radiation and oxidative stresses. Healthy fruits and 100% fruit juices are the best sources of Vitamin C.
* Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties help protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. One clinical study showed that vitamin E can cut the risk of developing cataracts in half. Another showed that the combination of vitamins C and E protected against UV rays.
The richest source of vitamin E is wheat germ. Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and collard greens), sweet potatoes, avocado, asparagus, and yams are also good sources of vitamin E.
* B Complex vitamins are necessary for nerve functions, especially vitamin B-12. The retinal receptor cells send all their messages through nerve fibers into the optic nerve and into the brain. 1000 mg of B-12, sublingually (under the tongue), a day is recommended for people with optic nerve disease or glaucoma.
B vitamins are abundant in meat and meat products such as liver, turkey, and tuna. Other good sources for B vitamins include whole grains, nutritional and brewers yeast, molasses, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chile peppers, tempeh, and beans.
Top Minerals for Vision and Eye Health
* Magnesium is important in nerve conduction and it dilates blood vessels. It is especially important for maintaining blood flow to the eye and brain in elderly individuals with macular degeneration or diabetes, at a time of decreased blood pressure because they are lying down.
* Chromium is vitally important in regulation of blood sugar. The healthiest form of chromium by far is glucose transfer factor (GTF) chromium.
* Selenium is a trace mineral that helps boost immunity and fight off infections and it is an important co-factor for vitamin E, iodine, and glutathione reductase. Studies have identified low selenium levels in cataract sufferers.
* Zinc is essential for the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A. Our eyes contain the greatest concentration of zinc in our body. It plays an important role in the action of many enzymes present in the retina and helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Note: supplementation of more than 30 mg of zinc daily requires adding 2 mg of copper.
* Copper is essential for the production of collagen, a component of connective tissues. Copper gluconate is a readily absorbable form of copper that is one of the most important blood antioxidants. It helps keep cell membranes healthy and aids red blood cells in hemoglobin production.
Other Important Compounds for Vision and Eye Health
* Lutein, found in our retinas, is essential for healthy vision. Lutein and a related dietary carotenoid, zeaxanthin, accumulate within the retina and imbue a yellow pigment that helps protect the eye. It lowers the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (low lutein intake is implicated as a risk factor in age-related macular degeneration) and may also help to prevent or slow down atherosclerosis.
* Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a very important nerve stabilizer and is helpful in diabetics, and in patients with glaucoma, to protect their remaining optic nerve fibers.
* Dicosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with six unsaturated double bonds, makes up 30 percent of the good fat in the retina, brain and adrenal gland. Following objects at a distance, driving and hand/eye coordination may all be improved with the use of DHA.
* N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is the primary component in the production of glutathione, an amino acid and major antioxidant in the lens of the eye. It is produced and released by the liver. Besides helping protect tissues surrounding the lens of the eyes, glutathione helps fortify the cellular enzymes glutathione, reductase, super oxide dismutase and catalase. Those are the primary free radical fighting enzymes inside our cells.
*Glutathione has been linked in several studies with the prevention of cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disease, and diabetic blindness.
* Rutin is also considered to be an important nutritional compound for the eyes due to its ability to strengthen capillaries.
Top Herbs for Vision and Eye Health
* Pycnogenol is a powerful antioxidant derived from French maritime pine tree bark and the subject of more than 180 studies. Of particular note is its ability to reduce leakage into the retina by repairing capillaries in the eyes. While still largely unknown to American doctors, Pycnogenol is the leading prescription for diabetic retinopathy in France.
* Eyebright has been used for centuries to treat eye irritation. The name is thought to have been given the plant because of its valuable properties as an eye medicine that preserves eyesight.
* Coleus forskohlii, Pilocarpus jaborandi, and Triphala have all been used to lower intra ocular pressure via parasympathetic relaxation of the body. Triphala has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of glaucoma.
* Saffron is better known as a kitchen spice which gives curry its yellow color; however, it can have wonderful results for eye problems, including cataracts. In a recent trial, every participant who took saffron had vision improvements and the researchers said the aromatic herb “may hold the key to preventing the loss of sight in the elderly”. Notably, there have also been reports of saffron significantly helping vision in the instance of cataracts.
* Silymarin, the primary component of milk thistle, is a major liver support compound. The liver is the key organ for the eye, since all the fat soluble vitamins and glutathione are stored there. The B vitamins are activated in the liver. The eye is subjected to bright light throughout the day and important ingredients for repair are stored in the liver.
* Bilberry is high in a type of bioflavonoid that speeds the regeneration of rhodopsin, the purple pigment used by the eyes’ rods. British air force pilots in World War II ate bilberry jam to improve their night vision during evening sorties.
* Gingko biloba has been used for many centuries for eye and central nervous system problems. It is a selective cerebro-vascular dilator and seems to increase circulation to the back of the eye as well as increasing blood flow to the eye. It is also becoming an increasingly popular adjunct in the treatment of macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Remedies for the Eyes
*Bentonite clay poultices have been used successfully by many people with eye problems. Bentonite clay pulls out toxins that cause any different eye issues and is especially good for infections and eye strain. It has even been reported to help restore vision in the instance of cataracts
*Mix half a teaspoon of licorice root powder mixed with half a teaspoon of honey and one fourth teaspoon of clarified butter. Take the mixture twice daily with a cup of milk on an empty stomach.
*Mix one-half to one liter of a combination of carrot, celery, and parsley, and chicory juice to help nourish the optic nerve and muscular system. Amazing results have been reported using this formula.
*Use fennel eaten raw, made into tea or used as an eyewash to help with vision problems, including cataracts.
*Endive juice is considered to be a very effective remedy for myopia. It can also be mixed with other beneficial juices such as carrot, parsley, and celery.
*Cayenne is an anti-inflammatory for the mucus membranes and it increases blood flow to the eye. Use only very small amounts, well diluted with water in eye drop form.
*Use Coleus dropped directly into the eye to increase blood flow to the eye and decrease intraocular pressure.
*Jaborandi is a herb that grows in the rainforest. It’s been used for well over 100 years in patients with glaucoma and it contains pilocarpine, an alkaloid compound which causes constriction of the pupils and reduces pressure within the eye.
*Strange as it may seem, many report improved vision from applying mustard oil to the soles of both feet daily and at night.
Remedies Especially for Cataracts
*As mentioned earlier, there have been many reports of saffron helping alleviate cataracts and restore vision.
*Place a few drops of raw organic honey (Manuka honey is by far the best) in the eyes twice or more each day. This is an ancient Egyptian remedy which is reported to have benefited many people with cataracts.
*The use of carrots is considered beneficial in the treatment of cataract. Take plenty of raw carrots daily or else drink two glasses of fresh carrot juice, one each in the morning and evening.
*Eat two or three cloves of raw garlic daily to clean the crystalline lens of the eye. The cloves should be chewed slowly.
*Extract the juice of pumpkin flowers and apply externally on the eyelids twice daily to prevent further clouding of the crystalline lens.
*Mix an equal quantity of aniseed and coriander powder together with one teaspoon of brown sugar, and take the mixture in doses of 12 grams in the morning and evening.
*Finely grind seven kernels of raw almonds together with half a gram of black pepper and place in a half cup of water. Sweeten with raw honey and drink the mixture to help the eyes regain vigor and clarity.
*Twice daily, close your eyes and bathe them with hot (but not scalding) water containing Epsom salts. In addition, take an Epsom salts bath at least twice a week. Remain in the bath from twenty-five to thirty-five minutes till you perspire freely. After the bath, cool off gradually.
When it comes to eye remedies, the best results may well come from combining one or more of the suggested remedies.
Two final ingredients essential to improving vision and maintaining eye health are patience and perseverance. Most vision problems do not develop overnight and it is unlikely to correct such problems overnight. However, with patience and perseverance vision problems can often be improved and perhaps even corrected entirely. And, with good a good diet, habits and other items such as those described in this article, you may be able to maintain good eyesight for a long, long time.