(Health Secrets) A number of conditions can lead to poor vision and eye health. Some of these are refractive errors that affect visual acuity. Others are degenerative conditions that can completely rob us of good vision as they advance. As we age, we become increasingly susceptible to degenerative diseases of the visual system. However, contrary to popular mainstream dogma, such conditions can be prevented and often even successfully reversed.
Refractive errors can slowly compromise good vision. Common refractive errors that reduce visual acuity and for which many people seek spectacles or contact lenses for correction are:
Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a defect of focusing caused by the eyeball being too short. Hyperopia causes difficulty in focusing on near objects and, in extreme cases, may result in the inability to focus on objects at any distance.
Myopia, known as near-sightedness, is a defect of focusing caused by the eyeball being elongated. Myopia causes difficulty focusing on far away objects. In extreme cases, myopia may also result in the inability to focus on objects at any distance.
Astigmatism blurs vision at all distances. It occurs when the front surface of the eye (the cornea), and/or the lens inside the eye, has a curvature that is steeper in one direction than it is in the other. Unlike most other eye conditions, astigmatism can be present at birth. It may also occur in combination with nearsightedness or farsightedness.
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 which occurs with advancing age. Symptoms of presbyopia usually appear around age 38 to 40.
Focusing problems that affect visual acuity for distant or 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 muscles in the eye tend to lose flexibility with age anyway, but doing a lot of close-up work or otherwise spending long periods focusing at fixed lengths when you are still young can cause the eye muscles 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 acuity.
Exercises for the eyes that help restore good vision
Many people have found that regular eye exercises help restore visual acuity and prevent future vision problems. Such eye exercises usually include alternate 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 has 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. The improvement in visual acuity can be striking.
Degenerative conditions of the eye
These are the big three that can rob sight from people as they age:
Macular degeneration is a vision disorder that often accompanies aging. 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 of 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 loss.
* Congenital glaucoma is characterized by cloudiness of the front of the eye, enlargement of one or both eyes, red eye, and 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. Acute-closure glaucoma should be treated immediately as a medical emergency.
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.
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