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The cornea is the transparent layer of the eye that acts as a protective shield. The cornea, in combination with the sclera, protects the eyes from various harmful microorganisms and particulate matter, including the harmful UV radiations (to some extent). The cornea is made up of three important layers, the Endothelium, Stroma, and the Epithelium.
- Endothelium: The inner layer of the cornea, the endothelium helps to maintain a clear vision by removing the excess fluid absorbed by the stroma. The mitochondria-rich single celled layer functions more like a pump.
- Stroma: The middle corneal layer is extremely thick (~90% of the total corneal thickness) and composed mainly of proteins and fluids. Like the endothelium, the stroma, too, plays a pivotal role in the normal eye vision.
- Epithelium: Being the outermost layer, the epithelium functions as a defensive shield, protecting the eyes from harmful germs, bacteria and any matter that can harm the eye. Most importantly, the epithelium absorbs the essential nutrients and oxygen (present in the tears). The cornea, thus, plays a pivotal role in the normal vision of the eye. However, an injury or an infection can interfere with the corneal functioning, affecting a person's vision as well as giving rise to other complications (the eyes may appear itchy, watery and red. There may also be light sensitivity).
Some of the common cornea problems include
- Keratitis: Injury or microbial (bacteria, virus or fungi) infiltration of the cornea can trigger this condition resulting in corneal infection and inflammation. Some of the symptoms characteristic of keratitis include extreme light sensitivity, blurred vision. The inflammation can also result in redness, pain (moderate to severe) and watery eyes. Antifungal, antiviral or steroidal eye drops may provide relief from the associated symptoms.
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster): This condition mainly affects people who have suffered from chickenpox. In some cases, the virus though inactive may still be present in the body (in the nerves). However, at a later period, certain factors may trigger its activation. Once active, the virus can affect different parts of the body, including the cornea. Shingles can cause corneal soreness and inflammation. Old people and those with a weak immunity are more likely to suffer from shingles. People with shingles may benefit from the administration of steroidal (tropical) and antiviral eye drops.
- Ocular Herpes: This is a viral infection triggered by Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV I) or Herpes Simplex Virus II (HSV II) resulting in herpes of the cornea. The condition gives rise to corneal inflammation and sores. Here too, the patient can get some relief by using antiviral or steroidal eye drops.
- Keratoconus: This is a degenerative disorder of the cornea that results in thinning of the cornea. The condition can also alter the corneal shape, resulting in swelling, pain, and loss of vision (partial to complete, particularly the night vision).
- Fuchs' Dystrophy: This is a corneal dystrophy whereby the corneal endothelial cells break down at a slower rate than usual. As a result, the stroma may be waterlogged resulting in swelling and blurred vision. If you wish to discuss any specific problem, you can consult an ophthalmologist.
Myopia is a common refractive error of the eye that makes it difficult to focus on far away objects. People who are nearsighted will see objects close to them clearly, while those further away appear blurry. Myopia is natural. An overall longer shape of the eye usually causes myopia, so it is a naturally occurring visual problem that cannot be prevented. Nearsightedness tends to run in families, but you don't need to have a myopic parent to develop it. Myopia begins at an early age and worsens in the teenage years, but generally stabilizes in adulthood.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of myopia:
- Objects far away, like a chalkboard or road signs, appear blurry
- Persistent need to squint or close eyelids to see clearly
- Headaches due to eyestrain
- Difficulty seeing while driving a vehicle, especially at night (night myopia)
- Need to sit closer to the television, movie screen or the front of the classroom
- Holding books very close while reading
- Not able to notice distant objects
Causes of Myopia
Nearsightedness happens when your eye is longer than normal, or, less often, when your cornea is too curved. It’s a problem in the focusing mechanism of the eyes. However, the exact cause of myopia is not known. Research about myopia supports two key risk factors:
- Family history. If one or both parents are nearsighted, the chance of their children developing it increases.
- Working up close. Myopia may be helped along by how a person uses their eyes. Intense detail work, long hours in front of a computer or reading can also increase the chances of developing myopia.
Treatment Options for Myopia (Nearsightedness)
When treating myopia, the goal is to help your eyes focus on far away objects. The most common way to achieve this is through
- Corrective glasses
- Contact lenses
- Refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK, is available for adults and those with moderate to high levels of nearsightedness
Adults who have developed cataracts may also have their myopia corrected with an intraocular lens (IOL) that replaces the human lens during cataract surgery. The most appropriate treatment depends on your eyes and your lifestyle. Nearsightedness can also be corrected as part of the cataract surgery procedure.
- Contacts and Glasses: Eyeglasses and contact lenses can correct myopia. However, they cannot stop the eye from growing longer or cure the irregular curve of the cornea that causes your blurry vision.
- Surgery: Surgery can decrease or eliminate dependency on eyeglasses and contact lenses. LASIK surgery is the most common type of surgery to correct myopia.
- ICL (intraocular collamer lenses) or phakic lensesIn adults with cataracts, is an option for those myopic patients who are not suitable for lasik surgery due to either less corneal thickness or very high myopia.
- Orthokeratology: A new type of treatment which offers an alternate solutions to people who are suffering from myopia. This is also known as Ortho-K. As a part of this procedure a person has to wear specialized lens overnight, to correct the vision for the next day. Orthokeratology is a process that uses specially designed GP contact lenses to temporarily reshape the contour of the cornea to reduce myopia (nearsightedness). In addition to the benefit of lens-free daytime vision, orthokeratology is starting to be appreciated for its ability to slow the progression of myopia. A number of published clinical studies have found that orthokeratology lens designs inhibit the growth of the eye's axial length, which determines the degree of myopia. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Ophthalmologist.
Contact lenses are one of the most convenient ways to correct vision-related problems. It is easily disposable and requires least maintenance. It might have minor side effects in the form of irritations and allergies but it requires least time for adaptability. They help to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness along with astigmatism and age-related vision problems like presbyopia. Following are the benefits and harms of wearing contact lenses.
Positive effects of contact lenses
1. Better vision: Wearing contact lenses improves your vision to a great amount, especially peripheral vision. They are comfortable to wear and can correct both nearsightedness and farsightedness. They can cause discomfort initially but are more effective than glasses. Lenses are also available in bifocals and tints and can be worn for long periods of time.
2. Great for active lifestyle: Glasses can be a hindrance to sports activities and can limit your peripheral vision. Lenses on the other hand are great for an active lifestyle as they require short adaptation period. They are easy to put and take care of and do not require a lot of maintenance on your part as it needs least cleaning.
Risks of wearing contact lenses:
- Dry eyes: Dry eyes are the most common side effects of wearing contact lenses
- Infections: Contact lenses wearers are prone to infection of the cornea called keratitis. It can cause swelling, blurry vision and other problems due to lack of oxygen supply to the cornea.
- Allergic reactions: Allergic reaction to the contact lens solution can affect your vision as it causes inflammation of the eyeballs and redness. It can also cause eyelid inflammation and limit your scope of vision. If you wish to discuss any specific problem, you can consult an ophthalmologist.
Ebooks maybe are a lot easier to carry, and with the emerging trend of Kindles, it may appear to be more convenient than paperbacks, but the smell of new books, the texture of its pristine pages, is unparalleled to the inanimateness of ebooks. But that is not just why you must choose paperbacks over ebooks.
Read on to find out why paperbacks work well over ebooks for better eye health:
- Does not involve light-emission: The backlit electronic devices, strain your eyes, causing redness, irritation and watering. Most doctors advise that exposure to light during the evening, especially from artificial sources should be minimal. On the other hand, books do not emit any harmful rays, making it the obvious choice if you want to take good care of your eyes.
- Do not hamper body clock: Our system has a tendency to adapt itself to the rhythm of life by responding to the surrounding light. However, the blue light in reading devices disrupt the release of melatonin or the sleep hormone, causing inadequate, less deep sleep, and fatigue and irritation the following morning. Thus, not giving enough time to your eyes and body for revitalizing. On the other hand, studies have shown that people reading books sleep better and timelier than those reading on devices.
- Proximity to device not required: The admonition of not sitting too close to the television's screen glare is nullified by reading devices where a certain level of proximity is required for comfortable reading, which harms our eyes. But paperbacks do not have any such risk involved as there is no glare that would affect our eyes.
- Does not induce disrupted winking: Electronic devices often trigger a tendency to not blink and stare at the screen constantly for longer than advisable. That does not give the lenses in your eyes the momentary rest that the eyes require in order to replenish themselves.
Exercises to improve eye health:
There are many common measures people take to improve their eyesight or improve their vision. These include wearing glasses, lenses, sunglasses and many such measures. Here are some effective exercises which prove to be highly beneficial in increasing your eye health:
- Stretching: This is the most common and also one of the easiest to do. It requires you to just look up, hold for two seconds, look down, hold for two seconds, then repeat this procedure for each corner of your eye, which means top-left, top-right, bottom-left and bottom-right corners.
- Flexing: This is simply rotating your eyes in circles. Roll your eyes in the clockwise direction for one minute and then roll your eyes in the anticlockwise direction for one minute.
- Focus switching: This particular eye exercise is used for accommodation and is probably the most useful one. In this eye exercise, you have to hold something at a reading distance and cover the other eye. You then have to find something that is at least twenty feet away and trace its shape with one eye closed. With one eye closed, trace more shapes which are twenty feet away and this may improve your eyesight.
- Palming: This exercise is also very simple to perform. All you have to do is cover your eyes with your palms. Once you have done this, just wait and see that there are no bright flashes of light. If you see that there is a bright flash of light, just wait till they go. This is used primarily to destress the eyes.
- Deep blinking: This is also an incredibly useful exercise for distance vision. All you have to do is to place some large letters at a fair distance and then sit on a chair. You have to then close your eyes and tighten all your muscles for 5 seconds. After the gap of 5 seconds, open your eyes and see the letters for a second or two. The more time you do this the more clearly you will be able to see the letters after reopening your eyes.
Finally, a warning has to be given that these eye treatments are not universally accepted by all doctors. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a psychologist.