Eyesight is something that we all take for granted. Millions of people can’t see, and for them, see the post on making life easier for blind people. This post has tips on how your eyes work, how to help prevent eye problems, and tips to take care of your eyesight naturally. We’ll then look at greener options for spectacles and contact lenses, and finish with some fascinating facts about eyesight of various animal friends.
If the past was what we were meant to see. Then behind, not in front, our eyes would be. RVM
Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes, doesn’t mean he lacks vision. Stevie Wonder
Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield, will think hard before starting a war. Otto von Bismarck
Our eyes begin to develop 2 weeks after conception, and continue to grow until adulthood. Able to focus on 50 objects each second, some say that the most relaxing place for eyes is to gaze on a horizon by the sea, as it’s one of the few places left that we can view nature as it is (even parks have buildings in the background). In yoga, there is an exercise where you gaze at your thumb and then the wall behind, as these days, we rarely look like this, as we would have done when living wild. Using the eye muscles in different directions, can help to keep them strong (instead of just reading left to right, as most of us do in daily life).
Eyes are extremely complicated organs (only the brain has more bits!) and can tell colours apart (unless you are colour-blind) and some people even have a fear of the eyes, called ommatophobia. It has more parts to it than a fingerprint, and is just as unique. The coloured part is called the iris, although some people (like David Bowie) have eyes of different colours.
The main ways to protect your eyes are:
- Drink lots of water.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking.
- Eat lots of nutritious plant-based foods, this can help to prevent macular degeneration (where the central retina area is damaged), usually affecting central vision.
- Don’t look at strong sun and wear biodegradable quality sunglasses.
- Avoid tanning beds, as this can lead to an increased risk of cataracts and other eye diseases.
- Wear safety goggles, if playing contact sports or working in jobs that use hazardous materials.
- Don’t overuse computers, and take regular breaks. Don’t sit under glaring lights, use floor lamps and make use of curtains and blinds (also good to help stop birds flying into windows). If you don’t have a desk, use a dragonfly laptop stand to avoid eye/neck strain from moving your head up and down.
Common eye conditions are:
- Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions, where the optic nerve is damaged, and causes fluid build-up that puts pressure on the eye. It’s a leading cause of blindness in older people. People who practice yoga should never do headstands or other poses, that would increase this pressure.
- Cataracts are caused by cloudy lenses, the world’s leading cause of blindness, especially in developing countries. These are usually reversible with an operation, using an artificial lens.
- Diabetes complications can cause retina damage.
- Retina detachment is a serious conditon that lead to blindness, if not treated. Symptoms are seeing flashes of light, darkened vision and dark spots or squiggly lines (harmless eye floaters are usually temporarily caused by inflammation or blood in the eye).
- Conjunctivitis is usually caused by allergies or infection, and usually gets better on its own within a few weeks. Showing up as red, gritty and inflamed eyes (sometimes with pus on the lashes), it can be contageious so use boiled cooled water to clean crusts with a clean cotton pad and hold a cold flannel on your eyes for a few minutes, then wash pillow cases and cloths, and don’t wear contact lenses until better. Always call the doctor or hospital for babies with red eyes or symptoms have not cleared up within 2 weeks. Also call a GP if you have pain in your eyes, sensitivity to light or changes in your vision.
- If you have swollen or puffy eyes, see a doctor if they don’t improve within 48 hours. Common reasons are crying, allergies, conjunctivitis, a stye (infection of the eyelash follicle or tear gland), blocked oil glands, inflammation or trauma. Graves disease (related to the thyroid) is a less common option, and sometimes rarely can be a sign of eye cancer. Use cool water to sooth and a water-soaked cloth as a cool compress. Remove contact lenses, until better.
Greener Spectacles & Contact Lenses
If you have eye problems, then make a yearly appointment with an optometrist or opthalmologist for an exam. Also see one if you have loss or blurred vision, flashing lights, redness, itching or swelling/pain.
If you need glasses, get your lenses checked to ensure you are wearing the correct prescription, to avoid headaches and injury from unsafe vision. Some people prefer to use corrective laser surgery that costs around £600 (in most cases, it’s not available on the NHS for those who simply want better vision).
It’s best to get an indie optician to fit your glasses, for safety and comfort. Most make a loss on NHS eye tests (around £20) so find ones that last years, and invest in good ones. Some employers (like councils) may fund them, so ask before you buy. An optician can fit you with glasses, but for more serioius problems, see a medically-trained opthalmologist. One disturbing fact is that the former tutor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who trained as an opthalmologist in London) said he specialised in draining cysts, as he was ‘disturbed by the sight of blood’. Yet on return to his homeland, hundreds of thousands of people have now died in a bloody war, under his watch.
- Hemp Eyewear offers biodegradable frames for prescription glasses. This company offers a service to recycle broken frames that gives 30% discount on new frames and you can recycle any frames with them, and receive a 20% discount. The frames can easily be taken apart for repair and have a modular design to extend lifecycle. Use code HEMPVIP10% for 10% discount.
- Panda makes lightweight bamboo frames in hundreds of styles including single vision, bifocal, varifocal and lifestyle digital focus options, plus non-prescription reglazing choices. You can also choose lens thickness, type, colour, tint type and coating. Include a valid copy of your prescription when you place your order.
- Bird makes sustainable glasses and prescription sunglasses, made from a sustainable cotton/wood acetate that biodegrades 150 times faster. It has home try-on and take-back recycling programs, which give up to 40% discount on new pairs (not for prescription lenses, but they can re-fit existing lenses onto new frames at no extra cost, or apply discount to new prescription orders). Every pair sold generates a donation to an organisation that distributes solar light to families in Zambia and Malawi, replacing the use of dangerous polluting fossil fuel lamps.
Most opticians have a box to recycle unwanted spectacles. These are often sent to countries where people with poor eyesight can make use of them.
Terracycle has a nationwide program where you can recycle contact lenses, blister packs and foils at local outlets (including Boots). These are sent off to make into recycled plastic park benches. Never flush contact lenses down the toilet, as the plastic will harm marine life.
Fascinating Facts on Animal Eyes
We share our beautiful planet with thousands of different creatures, so here are a few fun facts about some of their amazing eyes, that often work in completely different ways to ours! Shark corneas are the most similar to us, so donate your own at death, to avoid them being used in transplants. NHS Organ Donation now assumes you will donate, rather than you won’t.
- Rhinos have poor eyesight, which is why they often get hunted by poachers. They can’t see a motionless person just 30m away, so have to rely on their strong sense of smell. See how to save endangered rhinos for new ways to prevent poaching, and what we can do to help.
- Worms have no eyes! They use light receptors to know night from day, and use vibrations to hear (they have no ears either).
- Camels have three eyelids, to protect their beautiful big-lashed eyes from the sand blowing into them, in the desert.
- Owls have excellent eyesight (some say they are the only birds to see blue, but blue-footed booby birds in the Galapagos show their blue feet to get a mate, so this is not true). Like us, owls have binocular vision but have tubes (that can’t move) instead of eyeballs. So they see better from far away, and the pooled blood from rotating their necks that cuts off circulation, powers their eyes and brain.
- Sheep and goats have rectangular eyes, so can see almost behind them. So they can see others coming up behind them, a lot quicker than others can see them.
- The four-eyed fish has two sets of eyes, to see above and below the water at the same time!
- Dolphins sleep with one eye open, as they need to come up for air. This way they can nod off, without drowning.
- Chameleons have completely independent eyes, so they can look two different ways at once.
- You’ve likely heard that dogs see in sepia (like old photos). Not true, but they can’t tell the difference between red and green. So if you are on the grass and throw a red ball, your dog will find it more difficult to see (though most work more by smell). They have more rods so are good at detecting items in dim light or fast-moving objects. One dog psychologist once waved at a dog from far away. The dog did not see him, but when the man waved and walked, he came racing toward him.
- Pigeons can see millions of hues, and have better vision (including colour) than nearly any other creature on earth.
- Tiger eyes are designed specifically to hunt at night. They see around 5 times better than us, and use their whiskers to navigate.
- Mantis shrimp has the world’s most complicated eyes, and even includes a natural sunscreen in the pigments.
- The inventor of cats’ eyes (used to keep roads clean on motorways) was inspired after seeing a pair of real cat’s eyes on the road, in the fog. Their eyes reflect light in the dark.
- Giant squids have eyes the size of a football! This is thought to be a throwback from trying to escape from giant sperm whales.
- Ostrichs have the largest eyes of any land mammal.
- Bald eagles can see up to seven times better than us. Although they can’t move their eyes, they can rotate their heads around to find their next meal.