In this era of ever-more screen use, it is more important than ever to look after our eyes, especially as we age.
How eye sight works
Light passes through the cornea at the front of the eye, through the pupil (the space at the centre of the coloured iris), through the lens and hits the retina at the back of the eye. A message is then sent through the optic nerve to the brain to tell the brain what it is looking at. The lens is suspended and held in position by zonules, which are small fibres that pull on the ciliary muscles. When we focus on something, the ciliary muscles contract and pull on the zonules, which then pull on the edges of the lens and change its shape.
How eyesight changes throughout life
At birth, the lenses are clear and flexible, the ciliary muscles are strong and can easily change the shape of the lens, so eyesight is good.
After 40, there is a loss of elasticity in the lens, ciliary muscles weaken and changes in the zonules make them to looser, meaning we can’t focus on close objects as well as we did.
After 50, there is a greater risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Cataracts occur when there is a clouding of the lens as proteins start to ‘clump’ which obscures the lens opaque, so that less and less light can pass through.
Glaucoma is associated with pressure building up in the eyes, which causes damage to the optic nerves. This causes peripheral vision loss and can lead to blindness.
Macular degeneration is a condition resulting from deterioration of the macular (centrally located area at the back of the retina), due to hereditary and environmental factors and can be exaggerated by smoking, obesity or ultraviolet light exposure.
How is your eyesight?
Try this eyesight quiz from Vision Matters. They also have a good vision simulator, so you can see if your eyes are having problems – are you developing cataracts or macular degeneration? Early identification is crucial to avoid future problems. And do an eye test with them here.
How to take care of your eyes
Obviously, regular eye tests are important, but as Vision Matters explain here, diet, exercise, alcohol, sun exposure and smoking all have a part to play too. Other risk factors include steroid use, hypothyroid, migraines, diabetes and general nutrient deficiency as well as injury and infection of the eye, of course.
Supplements for Eye Health
There are quite a few eye formulas about. Metabolics has OptimEyes and they did a good summary of the key elements in a good eye formula: (If ordering from Metabolics, enter 161026 in the Coupon Code box the first time you order and that will give you a 10% discount on all future orders – yay!)
It’s the carotenoid antioxidants that are really important here. You can read more about carotenoids for eye health here.
I remember years ago in my Holland & Barrett days, my fave eye stuff included eyebright/euphrasia. You can make an eye wash with that using something like this or use drops like these from Vogel, which are great for irritated and dry eyes. You can get loads of different eye products from sprays, caps, creams etc from ND here.
Rupa health has a great summary of the functional medicine approach to eye health here.
Chris Kresser discusses the ocular microbiome here, too, which is fascinating – what upsets the delicate balance of our eye ‘biome’? He also goes much more on the anti-inflammatory treatment route, which I like. Here’s a useful podcast he did about it. I think this approach will start to become more recognised over the next few years – it was a new one on me, even!
So, hope that helps. Look after your eyes. Let’s finish with a nice quote from Carl Jung, no less:
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
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