Myopia or near-sightedness is defined as seeing better at close ranges than at a distance. This is because the eye is longer than normal, or the cornea is more curved than normal. This causes light coming from distant images to focus in front of the retina instead of on it. Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is when vision is better at a distance than close up. Farsighted individuals have a short eye or a flatter cornea that doesn’t bend light enough, so the image focuses behind the retina. Glasses, contact lenses, and now refractive surgery can correct these problems. However, there still may be a role for natural medicine. Such simple things as the “gazing at the moon” exercise Ayurvedic doctors prescribe can help improve vision.
Consider these facts:
• Even simple changes like taking frequent breaks while doing close work can reduce eyestrain and stop your vision from changing.
• In 1996, H.S. Seung, MD published his finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the brain is able to hold the eye in one position because it stores a memory of the eye position in the visual cortex (Seung, 1996).
• A clinical trial of adults in good health, aged 62 to 75 years, showed they could be trained to read more efficiently after training that consisted of rapid visual processing, oculomotor, and guided reading training (Solan et al., 1995).
• A double-blind controlled clinical trial done in India using an Ayurvedic eye drop was shown in early myopic patients to correct refractive errors while in advanced myopic conditions it slowed the progressive deteriorations (Biswas et al., 1996).
• An examination was done of the nutritional status of 24 children who developed myopia between the ages of 7 and 10 years as compared to the status of 68 subjects who were not myopic at the age of 10 years. Researchers reported that ” Children who developed myopia had a generally lower intake of many of the food components than children who did not become myopic. The differences were statistically significant for energy intake, protein, fat, vitamins B1, B2 and C, phosphorus, iron, and cholesterol.” (Edwards, 1996).
• High levels of myopia among Chinese students are now being addressed through herbal treatment, acupuncture point eyeball massage, improved architectural design of school buildings, and (most happily for the kids) lessening of homework assignments (Bin et al., 1990, Abel, 1999).
• A study done in Russia using infrasound pneumomassage for ten days stabilized the course of progressive myopia, shown by examinations done three years after the treatments (Sidorenko et al., 1997).
• Height, weight and vision of 3,884 students were measured in China, revealing that vision and weight were positively interrelated whereas there was no correlation found between vision and height. Researchers pointed out that poor nutrition and poor food choices can explain the correlation between vision and weight (Zhang J, 1994).
• Animal studies have revealed that “the quality of the retinal image may be an important regulator of the matching of refractive state to growth of the ocular globe.” In other words, as you grow your eyeball also grows, and must maintain a precise relationship between size and focus. In young, rapidly growing birds, fitting them with optical devices that degraded the quality of their retinal images interfered with the normal eye growth and resulting in severe myopia. Researchers have also found correlations between eye growth and deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D and ocular temperature (Hodos, 1990). This lends credence to the idea that the “lights, sounds and colors” of today’s world may cause changes in eyeball growth.
• A series of Scandinavian studies of the biomechanics of the developing sclera were done on rabbits and humans. Initially, they gave injections to rabbits, which stabilized the connective tissue on the surface of the eyes, consequently stabilizing refractive errors. A controlled follow-up study done on 240 human eyes also showed improved stabilization. A third study was done on 612 children and adolescents with high myopia (a yearly progression of over 1.0 D) using a scleroplastic operation. The myopia “remained stable in 95.7% cases 1 year after the operation, and in 71.9%, 7 years after the operation.” Researchers stated “It can be concluded that non-surgical and surgical techniques of correcting the biomechanical properties of sclera for the treatment of progressive myopia as well as discriminative methods of determining the indications to these procedures have proven to be effective.” (Avetisov et al., 1997).
Taken collectively, these studies show that refractive errors are most probably the result of a complex interaction between environmental conditions (the images we see as we grow up), nutritional factors, and biomechanics. Dr. Abel and I are intensively investigating these factors in an attempt to determine methods that parents can implement to prevent their children from developing refractive errors.
Herbal and nutritional therapy has a clear role to play in the treatment of both common and unusual or difficult to treat ocular disorders, especially where Western medicine does not have causative understanding or effective treatments. The many studies showing the benefits of various nutrients and a few herbs for eye problems should be impetus to explore further the reports coming from China and India with regards to the benefits of their traditional eye herbs. Adopting a healthy lifestyle will reduce the three major stressors that negatively impact eye health, UV light, inadequate nutrition and stress.
Keep in mind Dr. Abel’s Four Pillars of Eye Health
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Eat and supplement well
3. Make wise lifestyle choices
4. Incorporate natural options into the preventive and therapeutic regimens.