As it so happens, when you announce on your blog that you no longer want to wear glasses, people just come out of the woodwork to say that they stopped wearing glasses some time back and their vision improved.
So, while I’m not expecting a miracle, I have been doing a fair bit of research about myopia (nearsightedness). It’s pretty interesting.
Rates of myopia have surged over the past 30 – 40 years. (Nature.com – The Myopia Boom) “Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted.”
That rate of growth points to an environmental issue. And, as the article goes on to note, you would expect the culprit to be use of computer screens and more intense educational systems. But it actually appears to be lack of time spent outdoors. “After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.”
Fascinating, right? But what does one do about it as a 36-year old – – – current prescription: -4.25 L and -3.75 R.
Because there were a couple things I noticed immediately upon taking off my glasses for larger swaths of daylight: I feel more relaxed. Physically, my face and eyes feel more relaxed. Rather than feeling eyestrain, as one might expect, I feel the opposite. So there is something to recommend this practice beyond fashion.
I’ve been reading about eyesight a fair bit over the past weeks, and vision improvement methods, both woo woo and conventional. And there are a couple of hypotheses I’ve formed about my own vision:
- Had I enjoyed spending time outside as a kid, I probably would still have myopia, but it would be in the -1.75 range- this is what my mother and brother have. That’s substantially better, allowing one to read street signs without glasses.
- Had I eaten fish, I might have better eyesight. I stopped eating fish when I was four. Not an issue of ethics, obviously, at that age- I just hate the taste and smell. There is some potential correlation between eyesight and consumption of fish oil- but I can’t find any good references for it.
- Some sunlight will probably be good for me.
How EyeGlasses Work:
Eyeglasses for myopia “spread out” the band of light entering the eye (yellow, left of picture), causing the point of focus to occur further to the right on the retina in the picture.
As a kid trying to read the chalkboard, I discovered I could see pretty well through a small hole (by holding my clenched fist with just a small opening in front of one eye and covering the other.) This phenomenon has always seemed a little odd to me, and, as I began to talk to other myopes, it appears it is not well known. Try it. My guess is that it improves my vision to about -2.0. And sure enough, it works the same when viewed through many pinholes, such as with pinhole glasses. Wearing these weirdo -terminator-looking things does allow me to read street signs and license plates- again, I’d estimate the vision level to be -2.0. I.e.: still fuzzy, but a great improvement from what I see without anything. (Pinhole glasses have other drawbacks besides the weird factor: they create doubled images and are not good for looking in several directions quickly.)
Now, optically, are pinholes somehow doing the same thing as eyeglasses? (I don’t know. It doesn’t seem so, because rather than spreading out light they are narrowing it.)
Other Threads I’m still Tracking:
In my initial readings about myopia, there are some references made to the fact that eyesight processing is a chemical reaction, and linked to some form of dopamine.
Because of the pinhole example, I know that the “information” of vision is reaching my eye- and able to reach it in pretty-good focus- but is somehow not being processed correctly by my brain. (Or, as the more classical opposing argument goes, my eye is little more than an out-of-focus camera.) So- since the visual information is all there, why can’t I learn to process it without glasses? Reference: Upside Down Glasses
This has been, in so many ways, the year of the body. What with all the climbing and healthy eating, we’ve also been reading about getting stronger. There was an aside in this episode about strength training from Tim Ferris’s podcast, where the guest mentions a simple Q&A called the Braverman test to estimate your dominance, or lack in the chemicals dopamine, acetylchlorine, gaba, and serotonin.
Now, I really don’t know if a Q&A can accurately measure these things, but I like personality tests. My results were dopamine dominant and moderately serotonin deficient. (Which seems probable to me based on a lifetime propensity to ‘low-moods.’) The “prescription” I’ve given myself for serotonin deficiency, based on that Q&A, is:
1280 mg fish oil
300 mg magnesium
300 mg st johns wort
400 mg passion flower
30 mg zinc
While there haven’t been any vision improvements, I have started sleeping through the night. WHICH IS AWESOME.
Final Point: Is the Issue Flexibility or Strength?
From my armchair research, it’s been a little challenging to determine whether myopia develops because the lens of the eye hardens into the wrong shape, or the muscles around the lens don’t develop sufficient strength to control it. Googling “What causes myopia?” leads to lots of answers about the eyeball being the wrong shape, but not why. My vision was good till age seven, then rapidly declined. I hid it for a year, and got glasses when I was nine. That’s how I discovered the pinhole thing for reading the chalkboard.
Let’s say it’s theory #1: lens hardens into the wrong shape. That would imply there is no possibility for correction apart from mechanical processes like lasik, or some chemical process for softening. If it’s theory number #2, there is the possibility for strengthening and correction.
Check out Orthokeratology. It’s like a corset for your corneas.