May is Healthy Vision Month, established by the National Eye Institute to boost awareness about eye health and undetected vision problems. Follow these tips to sharpen your own vision so you can see your way to a future of longevity.
1. Eat for bright eyesight
Protect your peepers with a vision-ary diet! Our eyes require multiple nutrients to function optimally. Start with these:
• Vitamins A, C, E, and minerals like copper and zinc are essential to eyesight. Continue reading →
Human vision is dependent on the successful interaction of optical structures in the eye. When these structures malfunction, vision disorders occur. The key to treatment and resolution of these disorders is early detection through regular eye exams and prompt consultation with an ophthalmologist when problems occur.
The best way to describe how vision works is to use the analogy of a camera. The pupil manages the incoming light rays, opening and closing—like a camera shutter—according to the amount of light available. These light rays are progressively refracted and focused by three structures: the cornea, a transparent, convex cover over the iris and pupil in front of the eye; the lens, a spherical body behind the cornea, and the vitreous humor, a gelatinous substance that fills the back of the eyeball. It is important that the rays be in sharp focus when they reach the retina, a sensory membrane that lines the back of the eye and acts like film in a camera. The retina converts the light rays into electrical signals that are sent to the brain by way of the optic nerve. The brain then translates these electrical signals into what we know as sight.
Refractive Errors. The most common vision disorders are refractive errors—specifically nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. In each case, the eye does not refract the incoming light properly, so the image is blurred. While they are not diseases, refractive errors affect every age range and comprise the largest treatment effort of ophthalmologists. Refractive errors can be successfully corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, and laser refractive surgery.
Cataract. A cataract results when the normally transparent lens of the eye clouds, blurring vision. Most cataracts are age-related, advancing slowly and progressively until functional blindness occurs. Cataract cannot be prevented or cured with medication or optical devices, but it can be successfully treated through a surgical procedure that removes the damaged, natural eye lens and replaces it with a permanent, intraocular lens implant. The procedure has over a 90 percent success rate. After refractive errors, cataract is the most common vision disorder.
Macular Degeneration. Located in the retina, the macula is responsible for central vision. When people have macular degeneration, they can no longer bring the center of the picture they see into focus. The most common type of the disease is age related, and there are two forms: “wet” and “dry.” Whereas the wet form comprises only about 10 percent of cases, it causes the greatest vision loss, striking quickly and without warning as a result of erupting blood vessels. The dry form is characterized by a slow, progressive loss of vision from the thinning and tearing of the macula. Although both forms are being extensively researched, definitive causes and treatments have not yet been identified. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in most developed countries.
Glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. If the aqueous humor (the clear fluid that fills the front of the eye) does not drain properly, intraocular pressure builds, damaging the optic nerve and causing blind spots to develop. When the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results. If glaucoma is detected and treated in the early stages, loss of vision can be averted. However, the disease is chronic and cannot be cured or reversed. Unfortunately, the early stages are symptomless. Once symptoms occur, usually manifested by loss of peripheral or side vision, irreversible vision loss has already taken place. Treatment consists of medication and/or surgery, depending on the type of glaucoma, the patient’s medical history, and the stage of the disease. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the second-leading cause in developed countries.
Diabetic Retinopathy. Retinopathy is a side effect of diabetes and occurs as a result of fluctuations in the body’s blood sugar, a daily problem for diabetics. When blood sugar fluctuates over time, it affects the blood vessels in various parts of the body, including the retina of the eye, where the blood vessels can break and bleed, causing blurred vision. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the risk of retinopathy; good diabetic control can forestall the disease, however. Signs of retinopathy often occur before symptoms appear. Treatment includes the use of laser photocoagulation to seal leaking blood vessels. Often undetected and untreated, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of visual disability among working-age people.
Retinal Degeneration. Retinal degeneration is an umbrella term for a number of hereditary and degenerative disorders that range from mild to profound vision loss and blindness. Retinitis pigmentosa is the most common type of retinal degeneration, affecting one in three thousand people. Its many forms have widely varied symptoms, and onset and progress of the disease can be slow or rapid. In general, symptoms occur in childhood or young adulthood. Patients complain of night blindness followed by loss of visual field. There is no treatment, though researchers are hopeful that genetic therapies may be possible in the future.
Strabismus. Unlike most other vision disorders, strabismus is a physical defect. One or both of the eyes are misaligned and point in different directions. One eye may look ahead while the other eye points up, down, in, or out. Strabismus is more common in children than in adults. In adults it can be a side effect of head trauma or brain disorder. Treatment may involve eyeglasses, an eye patch (in some cases), or surgery on the eye muscles.
Eyeball and underside of the eyelids become inflamed
The eyeball and underside of the eyelids become inflamed. At first, the eyes are red and itchy. Later, there may be a watery secretion.
In more serious cases, there is pus formation, which dries up during sleep, making the lashes stick together.
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Bacterial or virus infection or eyestrain
Conjunctivitis results from bacterial or a virus infection or eyestrain. Prolonged work under artificial light and excessive use of the eyes in one way or the other, no doubt, contribute towards the disease.
Catarrhal condition of the system from general toxaemia
Its real cause can be traced to a catarrhal condition of the system resulting from general toxaemia due to dietetic errors, and a faulty style of living. The patient generally suffers from colds or other ailments indicative of a general catarrhal condition.
Conjunctivitis treatment using Vegetable Juices
Raw juices of certain vegetables, especially carrots and spinach, have been found valuable in conjunctivitis. The combined juices of these two vegetables have proved very effective. In this combination, 200 ml of spinach juice should be mixed with 300 ml of carrot juice. Raw parsley (prajmoda) juice-200 ml, mixed with 300 ml of carrot juice has also been found beneficial in the treatment of this disease.
Conjunctivitis treatment using Indian Gooseberry
The juice of the Indian gooseberry, mixed with honey, is useful in conjunctivitis. A cup of this juice should be taken mixed with two teaspoons of honey twice daily in treating this condition.
Conjunctivitis treatment using Vitamins
Vitamins A and B2 have proved useful in conjunctivitis. The patient should take liberal quantities of natural foods rich in these two vitamins. Foods rich in vitamin A are wholemilk, yoghurt, butter, carrots, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, mangoes, and papaya. Foods rich in vitamin B2 are green leafy vegetables, milk, almonds, citrus fruits, bananas, and tomatoes.
Conjunctivitis treatment using Coriander
A decoction prepared with a handful of dried coriander in 60 ml of water is an excellent eye-wash in conjunctivitis. It is said to relieve burning and reduces pain and swelling. This decoction should, however, be sparingly used by persons suffering from bronchial asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Take fresh fruit diet, avoid bananas
The best way to commence treatment for conjunctivitis is to adopt an exclusive fresh fruit diet for a week. In this regimen, the three meals a day should consist of fresh, juicy seasonal fruits. Bananas should, however, not be taken. Those with acute conjunctivitis should undertake a juice fast for three or four days.
All-fruit diet followed by a restricted diet of chapatis, nuts etc
The short juice fast may be followed by an all-fruit diet for a further seven days. Thereafter, the patient may adopt a restricted diet, consisting of fresh fruits, raw mixed-vegetable salad, wholemeal bread or wheat tortilla and steamed vegetables, and nuts.
Avoid starchy and sugary foods, refined cereals, strong tea ans coffee
The patient should avoid an excessive intake of starchy and sugary foods in the form of white bread, refined cereals, potatoes, puddings, sugar, jams, confectionery, meats, fatty foods, strong tea and coffee, too much salt, condiments, and sauces which cause a general catarrhal condition as well as conjunctivitis.
Other Conjunctivitis treatments
Those taking a juice fast for the first three or four days of the treatment should take a warm-water enema daily during the fast.
Cold water fomentation of the eyes
A cold water fomentation of the eyes provides almost immediate relief. The procedure is to fold a small hand towel, saturate it with cold water, squeeze out excess water and place the towel gently over both the eyes. It should be covered with a piece of warm cloth to retain the temperature. The process should be repeated as soon as the foment becomes warm. Fomentation should be done for an hour. The eyes should then be covered with a dry towel, and the patient should lie back and relax. The damaged eye tissues will quickly return to normal. This treatment should be repeated every night for a week, even though the problem may clear up with the first treatment itself.
Relaxing, strengthening of eyes by doing eye exercises
The patient should also adopt various methods of relaxing and strengthening the eyes. These include moving the eyes gently up and down, from side to side and in a circle – clockwise and anticlockwise; rotating the neck in circles and semicircles; and briskly moving the shoulders clockwise and anticlockwise. Palming is highly beneficial in removing strain and relaxing the eyes and its surrounding tissues. The procedure is as follows: sit in a comfortable position and relax with your eyes closed. Cover the eyes with the palms, right palm over the right eye and the left over the left eye. Do not press on the eye balls. Then allow your elbows to drop to your knees, which should be fairly close together.
BERKELEY – A team of American scientists have created the world’s smallest laser by squeezing light into a space smaller than a protein molecule.
Project leader XiangZhang, a professor at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, says that the breakthrough heralds a revolution in optical technology.
The researcher believes that this advance may pave the way for “nanolasers” that can probe and manipulate DNA.
It may also prove helpful in creating super-fast computers and for telecommunications, the researcher says.
“This work shatters traditional notions of laser limits and makes a major advance towards applications in the biomedical, communications and computing fields,” the Scotsman quoted Prof.Zhang as saying.
According to Prof. Zhang, the new “plasmon” laser compresses light into a gap five nanometres wide, the size of a single protein molecule.
Plasmons are the wave-like motions of excited electrons on the surfaces of metals. Binding light to these oscillations allows it to be squeezed much further than normal.
“Plasmon lasers represent an exciting class of coherent light sources capable of extremely small confinement. This work can bridge the worlds of electronics and optics at truly molecular length scales,” said Prof.Zhang.
The research team behind this breakthrough hope that one day they will be able to shrink light down to the size of an electron’s wavelength, about one billionth of a metre.
A research article on their latest work has been published in the journal Nature.
MIAMI – Eating large amounts of red and processed meats may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The authors followed 175,343 men in the United States who were 50-71 years old from 1995 until 2003. They recorded the participants’ meat consumption, including the type of meat they ate and how they cooked it, and monitored their iron levels, nitrite/nitrate intake and the number of prostate cancer diagnoses.
By the end of the study, 10,313 developed prostate cancer, of which 419 died.
After adjusting for various factors known to increase the risk of prostate cancer, the authors found that men who ate the most red meat were 12 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer and 33 percent more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those who ate the least amount.
Processed meat was also linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer. However, the authors noted that red processed meats (like hot dogs and bacon) were linked to a greater cancer risk than white processed meats (like turkey sandwich meat).
Grilling was the only cooking method that was linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. It has been suggested that cancer risk may be increased by compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are formed when meat (especially red meat) is cooked at high temperatures. When heated, the amino acids, sugars and creatinine are converted into HCAs and PAHs, which have been linked to various cancers, including stomach, colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancers, in humans.
Nitrate intake was also correlated with an increased risk of the disease. Nitrates are preservatives that are added to processed and cured meats such as cold cuts and bacon. The preservatives have been associated with cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.
This study supports growing evidence that too much meat may be unhealthy. Earlier studies suggest that red or processed meat may increase the risk of colon cancer and death (particularly from cancer and heart disease) and may be linked to age-related macular degeneration. Red meat also contains high amounts of saturated fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.
Some other dietary changes may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. For instance, eating fewer dairy products that are high in fat (like ice cream, cheese and sour cream) may be beneficial. Also, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) have been reported to contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals that may decrease the chances of developing prostate cancer.
The American Urological Association (AUA) encourages men who are in good health to have annual PSA testing starting at age 50, or at age 40 if they are in high-risk groups, such as African American men or those with histories of the disease.
NEW YORK-Oxygen-saturated blood can reduce heart muscle damage after an attack. An infusion of blood that is “supersaturated” with oxygen (SS02) can reduce the amount of damaged heart muscle immediately following a life-threatening heart attack, say researchers.
This is a finding made during a clinical trial, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions.
“The benefit of this therapy increased with the scope of the heart attack,” said Dr. Gregg W. Stone, lead author and professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of cardiovascular research and education in the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
“The data show that heart muscle can be saved even after severe heart attack,” added Dr. Stone, who is also the immediate past chairman of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York.
The AMIHOT-II study focused on patients having the most serious types of heart attacks – those with anterior ST-segment elevation myocardial infarctions (STEMIs) – and on those treated within 6 hours.
Nearly half of the 733,000 Americans who suffer acute coronary syndromes-heart attack or chest pain-each year have a STEMI, according to the American Heart Association.
When a large area of the heart is damaged, heart failure is more likely, and catheter-based percutaneous coronary intervention is a procedure that can effectively open blocked arteries in STEMI patients, Dr.Stone said.
In the trial, the “supersaturated” oxygen was delivered through catheter directly to the area of the heart muscle affected by the heart attack.
The size of the “infarct zone”-the amount of damaged tissue-was significantly reduced in the patients that received the “supersaturated” oxygen.
Upon analysis of their data from the study, the researchers observed that the median size of the “infarct zone” was 20 percent in the patients that received the “supersaturated” blood, and 26.5 percent in the control group.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is “burned” to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body metabolize fats and protein. B complex vitamins are necessary for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly.
All the B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that the body does not store them.
Vitamin B12 is an especially important vitamin for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it aids in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material. Vitamin B12 also works closely with vitamin B9 (folate) to regulate the formation of red blood cells and to help iron function better in the body. Folate and B12 work together to produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood.
Vitamins B12, B6, and B9 work together to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease. However, researchers aren’t sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart disease or merely a marker that indicates someone may have heart disease.
Mild deficiencies of B12 are not uncommon in elderly people, either because of poor diet or because they have less stomach acid, which the body needs to absorb B12. Low levels of B12 can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nervousness, numbness, or tingling sensation in the fingers and toes. Severe deficiency of B12 causes neurological damage.
Others at risk for B12 deficiency include:
* Vegans (vegetarians who also don’t eat dairy or eggs)
* People with malabsorption conditions, such as tapeworm infection, pancreatic disease, and conditions resulting from gastrointestinal surgery
* People who are infected with Helicobacter pylori (an organism in the intestines that can cause an ulcer). H. pylori damages stomach cells that make intrinsic factor, a substance the body needs to absorb B12
* People with an eating disorder
* People with HIV
Folic acid (vitamin B9), especially when taken in high doses, can mask the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to neurological damage. For that reason, anyone planning to take more than 800 mcg of folic acid should talk to their doctor first, to make sure they do not have a B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is used for:
Pernicious anemia occurs when stomach cells are not able to make intrinsic factor, and the body cannot absorb vitamin B12. Symptoms include weakness, pale skin, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet, loss of balance, confusion, memory loss, and moodiness. Vitamin B12 supplements in high doses, either given as injections or orally, are prescribed to treat pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia can be a dangerous condition and should always be treated by a doctor.
Many studies indicate that patients with elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine are roughly 1.7 times more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 2.5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than those with normal levels. Homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by B complex vitamins, particularly vitamins B9, B6, and B12.
The American Heart Association recommends that, for most people, an adequate amount of these important B vitamins be obtained from diet, rather than taking extra supplements. Under certain circumstances, however, supplements may be necessary. Such circumstances include elevated homocysteine levels in someone who already has heart disease or who has a strong family history of heart disease that developed at a young age.
A vitamin B12 deficiency causes fatigue. One small study, done a number of years ago, suggested that some people who were not deficient in B12 might gain more energy from B12 injections; however, follow-up studies are needed. One preliminary study indicated that people with chronic fatigue syndrome might benefit from B12 injections, although more research is needed to know for sure.
Although there is no evidence that vitamin B12 alone reduces the risk of breast cancer, some population studies have shown that women who get more folate in their diet have lower incidence of breast cancer. Vitamin B12 works with folate in the body, so it may help contribute to a lesser risk. Another preliminary study suggested that postmenopausal women who had the lowest amounts of B12 in their diet had an increased risk for breast cancer.
Studies suggest that vitamin B12 supplements may improve sperm counts and sperm mobility. However, the evidence is weak. Further studies are needed to determine whether B12 has any real beneficial effect.
Some anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin B12 injections given by a doctor may help treat symptoms of chronic asthma, although scientific studies are lacking.
Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods. Good dietary sources include fish, dairy products, organ meats (particularly liver and kidney), eggs, beef, and pork.
Vitamin B12 can be found in multivitamins (including children’s chewable and liquid drops), B complex vitamins, and individual supplements. It is available in both oral (tablets and capsules) and intranasal forms, softgels, and lozenges. Vitamin B12 is also sold under the names cobalamin and cyanocobalamin.
How to Take It:
If your diet includes meat, milk, and other dairy products, you should be able to meet the recommended daily requirements without taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Vegetarians who do not eat any animal protein should take a vitamin B12 supplement with water, preferably after eating. Elderly people may need greater amounts of vitamin B12 than younger people because the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from the diet diminishes with age.
People considering B12 supplements should check with a healthcare provider to find out the most appropriate dosage.Contact the Medical Staff at GEMS (on this web site).
Daily recommendations for dietary vitamin B12 are listed below.
* Newborns to 6 months: 0.4 mcg (adequate intake)
* Infants 6 months to 1 year: 0.5 mcg (adequate intake)
* Children 1 – 3 years: 0.9 mcg (RDA)
* Children 4 – 8 years: 1.2 mcg (RDA)
* Children 9 – 13 years: 1.8 mcg (RDA)
* Adolescents 14 – 18 years: 2.4 mcg (RDA)
* 19 years and older: 2.4 mcg (RDA)*
* Pregnant females: 2.6 mcg (RDA)
* Breastfeeding females: 2.8 mcg (RDA)
*Because 10 – 30% of older people may not absorb B12 from food very efficiently, it is recommended that those older than 50 years meet their daily requirement through either foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing B12.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Vitamin B12 is considered safe and non-toxic.
Taking any one of the B complex vitamins by itself for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, it is generally important to take a B complex vitamin with any single B vitamin. As noted earlier, taking folic acid at high doses can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, so thse vitamins are often taken together. Talk to your doctor before taking more than 800 mcg of folic acid.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use vitamin B12 supplements without first talking to your health care provider.
Medications that reduce levels of B12 in the body include:
* Anticonvulsants — include phenytoin (Dilantin), phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline)
* Bile acid sequestrants — used to lower cholesterol; include colestipol (Colestid), cholestyramine (Questran), and colsevelam (Welchol)
* H2 blockers — used to reduce stomach acid; include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid AC), ranitidine (Zantac)
* Metformin (Glucophage) — medication taken for diabetes
* Proton pump inhibitors — used to reduce stomach acid; include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex)
Antibiotics, Tetracycline:Vitamin B12 should not be taken at the same time as tetracycline because it interferes with the absorption and effectiveness of this medication. Vitamin B12 should be taken at different times of the day from tetracycline. (All vitamin B complex supplements act in this way and should be taken at different times from tetracycline.)
In addition, long-term use of antibiotics can deplete vitamin B levels in the body, particularly B2, B9, B12, and vitamin H (biotin), which is considered part of the B complex vitamins.
LONDON – Two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls, and the gender bias has resulted in men and boys having twice the access to eye-care, says an international agency in a report to mark the “World Sight Day” Thursday.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness says in most developing countries, women are less likely to receive eye care services than men, and that additionally, women comprise more than half of the elderly population.
“The natural incidence of some blinding diseases, like cataract and trachoma, is higher among women than men, which results in a situation where women account for nearly two-thirds of blind people worldwide.”
Some of the key findings of the report are:
-Equal access to eye care could substantially reduce blindness in poor countries
-Simple and effective strategies can address the inequity within 2020
-80 percent of blindness is avoidable and can be prevented, cured or treated
-45 million people worldwide are blind, and 269 million are vision impaired
-90 percent of blind people live in low-income countries
-The world’s leading cause of blindness is cataract
-Cataract is curable by simple, cost-effective operation
“Blindness and severe visual impairment from cataract could be reduced by around 11 percent in low- and middle-income countries if women were to receive cataract surgery at the same rate as men,” says the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Accordingly, the new report recommends strategies that are simple and achievable with the hope that they will contribute significantly to reducing blindness in developing countries.
“The systematic approach to ‘gender and blindness’ can serve as a model to help other health areas to address gender inequity.”
The World Sight Day is an international day of awareness, commemorated annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.