Myopia, or short-sightedness, is one of the most common causes of vision loss throughout the world. In some countries (particularly throughout Asia), as much as 70% – 86% of the population has myopia.
To see clearly, the eye must focus on an image in the space of the retina. This is an organ at the back of the eye which takes in light through photoreceptor cells. This light is then sent through nerve signals to the brain, and then focused upon by the cornea and
crystalline lens as well as the length of the eye.
In myopia, the image is focused in front of the retina because the cornea or lens curvature is too strong or the eye is too long (axial myopia). When the retina is not working as it should there is a “refractive error” whereupon the light does not translate to a correct image.
Symptoms of Myopia
The Symptoms of myopia are more than just near-sightedness. Those with this disease may also suffer from:
- Headaches due to eye strain
- Difficulty driving or seeing at night
- Double vision
- Frequent squinting
Types of Myopia
There are different classifications for myopia:
- Axial myopia is the name given for an increase in the eye’s axial length.
- Refractive myopia is attributed to the condition of the refractive elements of the eye.
- Curvature myopia is caused by excessive, or increased curvature of one or more of the refractive surfaces of the eye, especially the cornea. In those with Cohen syndrome, myopia appears to result from high corneal and lenticular power.
- Index myopia is attributed to a variation in the index of refraction of one or more of the ocular media.
Causes of Myopia
Though there is a genetic component to this disease, myopia is thought to be influenced be early vision, as well as several other factors.
The use of cell phone, computers, tablets and other electronic devices is contributing to the problem or myopia.
The schooling system also expects children in some countries to work on homework which can take up to four hours in one evening. The constant focus on the “screen” and fine print in books may be changing how the eye forms in youth, leading to eyesight loss as children grow older.
Studies in Singapore, and Sydney, Australia, for example, suggest that simply allowing children to spend more time outside in the sun (where their vision is often allowed to extend well beyond the horizon) contributes to eyesight acuity.
Low light conditions can also cause myopia, as can Diabetes type II and long term use of corrective lenses (eye glasses.)
Genetics is also thought to play a role in the presence of myopia, however a genetic predisposition for a malfunctioning retina may be triggered by environmental cues such as the over-use of electronics, or lack of time outdoors, as mentioned above.
Allopathic Cures for Myopia
Cures for myopia offered by Western medicine include:
- Eye glasses and contact lenses. This may temporarily cure myopia, but can also cause the eye to grow longer, and does not prevent the irregular curve of the retina that causes blurry vision. Often eye glasses can also cause migraine headaches, and make vision worse over time (or their myopia just gets worse for other reasons, causing them to need stronger and stronger lenses.)
- Eye surgery. This is only an option for some people, depending upon the type of myopia that they have. LASIK surgery is often successful but can be costly – about $2,000 to $2,500 per eye. Interocular eye implants and refractive eye surgery are also available, and can cost even more.
Myopia which is not addressed can lead to:
Natural Cures for Myopia
There are numerous natural remedies for myopia, many of which aim to cure nutritional deficiencies, lessen chronic inflammation, and reduce toxicity of the eye cells. These remedies are often inexpensive, and support the health of the entire body – not just the eyes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Myopia
Nearsightedness (or the lack thereof) is paired with liver and kidney health in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A healthy liver that is not overly toxic contributes to good vision. TCM utilizes acupuncture to increase blood flow and qi around the eyes but also relieves energetic stagnation in the organs that support good sight.
It is also thought that environmental conditions (which are mostly Yang) also add to poor vision. As the eyes look out into the world, they are also susceptible to airborne pathogens. Primarily, TCM practitioners seek to address:
- Heat – Which causes swelling, inflammation, and the redness commonly found in many eye diseases such as conjunctivitis.
- Cold – Which can cause pain and slow vision loss over time, as in chronic degenerative conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- Wind – Which can cause a sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss.
- Dampness – Which can cause the secretion of mucus, and swelling of the eyes.
- Dryness – That causes itchy eyes and redness.
- Summer Heat – That contributes to Inflammation and mucus discharge.
The result of Fire pathogenic invasion is indicated by inflammation, ulceration, and redness. Myopia is not usually thought of as a pathogen-induced disease, but it can certainly be caused by toxicity of the retina – induced by foreign substances.
Moxibustion and acupuncture are often prescribed along with cupping and herbal support.
Herbal Remedies for Myopia
There are hundreds of herbal remedies offered for myopia, but a few of the more common herbs that have shown to be effective include:
- Eyebright (Euphrasia)
- Indian Gooseberry
- Chicory Root
- Dogwood (Jamaican Dogwood)
- Anise Seed
- Sesamum flowers
- Long Pepper
- Black Pepper
- Common jasmine
Lifestyle Changes for Those Who Suffer from Myopia
Many simple lifestyle changes can also minimize myopia while supporting overall eye health.
- Take vision breaks. Your eyes need a break if you stare at a computer or phone screen all day. Every twenty minutes, step away from your computer and look as far away as you can out a window. Better yet, take a walk outside and let your eyes relax. You can also gently close them and allow them to rest completely.
- Do eye exercises that strengthen the eye muscles. William Bates has come up with eye exercises that improve the functioning of the eyes.
- Reduce stress. All the organs of the body – including the eyes, suffer when we are stressed. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, higher free radical and oxidative stress to the cells, and a general inability for the body to heal itself. For example, central serous retinopathy (also called choroidopathy) is a disease which causes fluid to build up in the retina. This then begins to cause damage to the blood vessels under the delicate retina in the choroids. The exact reason this happens is unknown, but stress is one of the factors which makes it worse. Try meditation, Qi Gong, taking a long walk or even deep breathing to give your nervous system – and your eyes – a much needed break.
- Breathe deeply to encourage blood flow and reduce inflammation. Just 60 seconds of deep breathing can help give your eyes a break and increase oxygenation of important eye components.
- Practice yogic eye postures. Blinking, sideways viewing, rotational viewing, and palming are just a few of the yogic exercises meant specifically for reducing myopia and other vision problems.
- Increase nutrients that support eye health. Many nutrients like Vitamin A, Lutein and zeaxanthin found in leafy green vegetables, Vitamin C Zinc and Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3s) all contribute greatly to eye health. Add these to your diet as much as possible.
- Spend time outdoors in natural light. Artificial (incandescent and fluorescent) light can cause eye strain. Sunlight contains a spectrum of light which is most conducive to eye health.
- Reduce “near point stress.” This causes the muscles of the eyes to be in a state of constant contraction, not allowing them to relax enough to focus on distant objects. The best ways to reduce this type of eye strain is to distance yourself from the television and look away from the TV during commercial breaks. Also, don’t read in dim light, or hold a book too close to your face. Minimize the use of cell phones, computers, video games, and handheld consoles which force near vision.
The formation of the eyes in youth is extremely important. Just as our immune systems are still developing once we leave our mother’s womb – so are the photoreceptors of our eyes. Children who spend more time outside, less time in front of computers and cell phones, and who get plenty of nutritional support for their eyes are much less likely to suffer from myopia as they grow older. This is considered an “acquired” vision deficit based on poor visual habits. If proper habits can be established when we are young, then we don’t have to worry about wearing glasses or contacts or undergoing surgery later on.