First let’s explore what we call normal eyesight, or 20/20 vision. If you have ever been to an eye doctor, you’ve likely been asked to cover one eye and read letters off a board. 20/20 vision is considered ideal because you are able to read the letters on line 20 from 20 feet away.
These numbers will go up if you have to move closer to the board to see the letters. You are legally blind at 20/200 vision. But doctors insist that even 20/20 vision does not mean that you have perfect vision, as side vision, night vision or color vision may still be impaired.
What exactly causes less than perfect eyesight in normal, healthy people? There are a number of reasons. One issue can be the way your eyes are shaped. Let’s say your eyeball is too short. This will make you farsighted, because the focus of light rays entering your eye will be beyond the retina. Conversely, an eyeball that is too long means that the focus point of light rays falls short of the retina.
For most people, bad eyesight is simply a matter of age. Around the age of 40, you may start noticing your near vision getting a little blurry. The reason for this problem, also called presbyopia, is that the eye’s natural lense loses some elasticity. It can no longer move properly to focus at multiple distances. While this usually happens around 40 years of age, it varies from person to person. You may be 50 years old and still have great vision. Congratulations!
Yet another reason for less than perfect vision is genetics. Chances are that kids whose parents are near- or farsighted will inherit their parents’ eye problems even at a young age.
Can eye exercises help to avoid or at least delay the need for glasses? According to a paper published by Harvard University in 2010, “Practiced faithfully, eye exercises may actually help delay the need for glasses or contacts in some people.” But it will not do anything for glaucoma or macular degeneration.
Nevertheless, the eye muscle is as important as any other muscle in the body and should receive adequate attention according to Chinese holistic medicine.
Warm up your eyes:
Move eyes to the left and right and repeat 10 times.
Move eyes up and down and repeat 10 times.
Move eyes diagonally from bottom left to top right and repeat 10 times.
Move eyes diagonally from bottom right to top left and repeat 10 times.
Move eyes clockwise and then counterclockwise and repeat 10 times.
Now rub your eyelids. This is supposed to improve circulation.
Finally, place your palms on your eyes for a couple of minutes to rest.
After your warm-up, you are ready to move on to the actual eye exercises.
- Place your pointers, or middle fingers, on the most hollow parts of your temples — the “Taiyang” acupressure point — on either side of your eyes and start massaging in a circular motion either clockwise or counterclockwise. Alternate direction and massage for about two minutes.
- Massage around your eye sockets in a circular motion for two minutes. The skin around your eyes is very thin, so use your ring fingers to apply the least amount of pressure. Gently massage the upper and lower parts of your eye sockets. Then massage the bridge of your nose with your first and second fingers.
- With both hands draw a line from your eyes to the back of your head and gently massage your skull where it meets the neck. You may want to keep your eyes closed for this, as it is an excellent relaxation technique during stressful times.
- Smile! Yes, we’re asking you to smile. While you’re smiling draw a straight line upwards from the corners of your mouth and stop next to the widest parts of your nostrils. This is also called the “Shibai” point in acupressure. Gently press your pointers into your cheeks and hold for 30 seconds. This area may be sensitive, and some people experience a clearing of their sinuses when they use this pressure point.
- Locate the notch between your eyeballs and your eyebrows and place your thumbs there. Then place the rest of your fingers on your forehead along the hairline. Gently press your thumbs upward without hurting yourself and massage your forehead in a downward motion. Do this for about two minutes.
A few things to consider when you choose to do these Chinese exercises:
- It is advisable to have short fingernails when you massage your face near the eyes.
- All of these exercises are meant to be done bilaterally, meaning on both sides at the same time.
- Avoid doing these exercises if you have any health concerns.
- Remember that these exercises are meant to be done daily for a long period of time to show any effect.
A study of 190 Chinese school children who were doing some of these exercises on a daily basis at school revealed that there was some improvement compared to a control group who did fake exercises. The researchers conducting the study found the numbers statistically (although not clinically) significant, so doing these exercises may prove beneficial if you stick with them faithfully.
Of course, not all of us are really into exercising our eyeballs to this extent. But you may still be asking yourself if any of the things you were told about poor eyesight are true. Almost all of us were told as children that crossing our eyes will eventually lead to permanently crossed eyes. We have good news for you: it’s not true. Voluntarily crossing your eyes will make you dizzy and may be uncomfortable to your eye muscles, but you can rest assured that they will not get stuck.
Another myth our parents just loved to tell us was that sitting too close to the television would give us bad vision. Yet again, there is no evidence to support this myth. However, if you, like so many millions of Americans spend a good amount of time on your computer, a couple of things can happen.
Firstly, looking at a screen for long periods of time has led to much less blinking. It is said that we blink only about one third of the amount we should blink during long computer sessions. This can dry out the film of tears on your lenses and lead to red, dry eyes. Make a conscious effort to blink more often if you can.
Secondly, staring at your computer screen for prolonged periods of time can cause fatigue and tired eye muscles, which can make it difficult to concentrate and to keep your eyes open. To prevent this from happening, try to look away from the screen every 20 minutes for about five minutes and focus on a point in the distance, ideally at least 20 feet away. You might even do some of the above mentioned eye-rolling exercises.
Finally, let’s discuss the usefulness of removing your glasses to strengthen your eyes. While there is no scientific evidence to confirm that not wearing glasses for periods of time actually improves your vision, the internet certainly is full of personal success stories. According to a Myths and Facts page on the Mayo Clinic’s website, wearing glasses will neither weaken nor cure your vision. Of course, in the case of a child with lazy eye or crossed eyes, glasses are an absolute must to correct the condition.
We believe it is safe to say, that the subject of eyesight, and its potential causes or cures, are about as controversial as the subject of nutrition. The only thing we can say for sure is that your vision will deteriorate with age. The best you can do for healthy eyes, besides the advice we’ve mentioned in this article, is to give them some rest occasionally, eat a balanced, healthy diet, and get your eyes checked occasionally.
Most doctors recommend to have a comprehensive exam every one to three years, depending on your age and other potential risk factors. Want to learn more about eye health? Read the book Total Vision, by Richard S. Kavner O.D., and Lorraine Dusky (A & W Publishers).
Ute Mitchell is a Freelance Writer and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner located in Portland, OR, where she homeschools her kids, cooks healthy meals for her family, and hikes the forests and mountains around the Pacific Northwest. She is an avid CrossFit athlete and loves to encourage others to live a healthy and active lifestyle.