Many of us who have rheumatoid diseases, daily back pain or chronic pain from some other source, also have eye problems. There can be many causes for this. I am suddenly reminded of the children who, when seeing their parents kissing and hugging, groan and say “Ick,” as they hide their eyes and turn away. How the heck do they think they got into this world? As these same children grow into young adults they change the phrase at the same scene and say, “My eyes, my eyes.”
Our eyesight is something we take for granted like hearing, our ability to smell as well as touch, taste and emote. All of life is a presumption until some part of it is gone. One of the most common causes for concern today and for the purposes of this article, is dry eye. Have you seen the eyecare shelf at your local Walgreen’s or Walmart lately? Row upon row of artificial tears, allergy drops, gels, liquids, eye washes and the list goes on. Apparently, many folks are fighting these problems along with other eye diseases.
All of us tend to have fewer tears as we grow older but it is more common with mid-age and older women. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, dry eye does affect one’s eyesight and can have many causes. Several diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus and thyroid disease can all have this problem as a major symptom. Various medications can also cause this problem such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, anti-histamines, sleeping pills, anti-cholinergic meds for the intestines and anxiety meds. You see, we all have much to be aware of in today’s world with so many prescriptions for all of these meds being filled. One can also have dry eye after eye surgery or from problems with the eyelid swelling.
The modern world comes at us with so many irritants such as cigarette smoke, pollution and computer fatigue. Did you know you don’t blink as often when you are on the computer? For many of us with chronic dryness, we are well aware of the particles in the air such as dust, bits of sand, fluff from fabric, eyelashes, etc. The wind carries so many of these particles plus it has the ability to dry out the outer layer of the eye.
Without getting too deeply into the “dry” side of this subject…groan,groan, let me explain briefly the anatomy of the eye. Above the eye is the lacrimal gland, within the eye is the white part, the conjunctiva and the colored portion which is the cornea. Just beneath the lower lashes there are glands called the Meibomian glands. The film on the outside of the eye, the tear film is composed of three layers. The outer layer is the oily layer and protects the eyes from dryness and is resourced from the Meibomian glands. The middle layer is the watery layer and it makes up most of the tears we have and keeps cleaning the eye of foreign particles and is fed by the lacrimal glands above the eyelids. The mucus layer is the inner layer of the tear film and helps the tears from the watery layer stick to the surface of the entire eye. Its mucus is manufactured in the conjunctiva, which is the white part of the eye and also lubricates in the eyelid itself.
Okay, bet you’re dry now. All of this is the how and why we need to protect our eyes. Diseases, medications and the atmosphere are coming at us and we need to be aware of this. I have problems everyday with all of the above and have a basket sitting beside the sink in my bathroom filled with tiny, expensive bottles of eyedrops. Hourly, unless I forget to use them, I am instilling eyedrops just to stave off irritation and frankly, to be able to see my computer or read the paper. Due to a careless eye doctor I lost all of my peripheral vision due to one of the drugs I took for many years. I had my eyes checked on a regular basis but it was overlooked until the damage was already done. My sight has been affected by that as well as the daily and hourly dryness. I now have to read large print and do most of my reading on the computer with the font enlarged and now read books on my ever-faithful Kindle.
What can you and I do if we have dry eye? What can we do in order to live with it on a friendlier basis? Let me share a few of the helpful things I have discovered. I avoid ceiling and cooling fans. When I’m outside I have glasses, which darken with the sun and a special pair which is helpful when I must be in direct sunlight. I also have a pair of glasses just for use with the computer. I have found it helpful to use a humidifier at night. I hydrate all day long with water, juice or seltzer. During the winter the air is dry from heaters and in the spring and summer, the air, of course, is warmer and more naturally drying. I also avoid using the hair dryer when possible. Some nutritionists recommend taking Omega-3 or Omega-6 oil capsules for this problem. I took Evening Primrose oil for years but had to stop when I got breast cancer.
I hope this has been helpful and perhaps answered a few questions for those of you who have this common problem with your eyes. Please remember to get your eyes checked by a competent optician or ophthalmologist on a regular basis.
A few days ago, I was reading an article in Mysterious Ways, a small but excellent magazine published by Guideposts. There was an interesting article about the famous naturalist John Muir. It piqued my interest and made me want to read more about him. We all have moments or events in our lives which awaken “something” within us and change the direction of our lives. Muir had always been a blossoming botanist but set that aside because he had to earn a living. For Muir it came in March of 1867, at the age of 28, while working for a wagon wheel factory in Indianapolis. Noted for his inventiveness in improving the machines that were being used, he quickly became a supervisor in the factory. On that day in 1867, a metal file he was working with slipped and struck him in the right eye. He stated his sight was gone forever because his left eye went into “sympathetic shock.” He could not see out of either one.
As anyone would be in that situation with not only the pain but the deep depression of losing his sight, the once young botanist grieved over the loss of his ability to see and enjoy all of God’s nature. After a few weeks he saw a doctor. It’s hard to imagine what could have been done for him in today’s world but it was not. Why he waited a few weeks, well I guess because it was 1867. The doctor gave him hope and told him the loss of sight was temporary and it would return. Considering the era of his injury his recovery was miraculous. The hope and the jubilant feelings that came over him can only be imagined. That loss and subsequent recovery of his sight changed the course of Muir’s life forever. Known throughout the world for his travels, writings and insight into all of nature; they all came to him because he had once been blind.
Is it possible for many of us who are down mentally and physically or changed with disease or suffering injuries that we have been blind and now have to face a new vision or route through life? We may not have the physical capabilities of a John Muir to hike the falls of Yosemite or trek along mountains tall but we can change our views, our perspective and our ways. Many of his insights have been passed down through the generations such as, “Most people are on the world, not in it,” and my favorite, “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
If you can, walk along a creek or river, to watch the tiny blue ripples on a clear day or the brown churning on a windy day; if you can sit inside or out and enjoy the wind in your face or if your pleasure is in watching the bloom of a flower or herb on your own porch, I urge you to do it. There is a life-giving force in nature as God has made it magnificent and free. One more quote from Muir, “I never saw a discontented tree.”
All of this wisdom dropping from John Muir reminds me of the famous quote of DH Lawrence. “I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A bird will drop frozen from a bough without ever feeling sorry for itself.”
Lovely words and meaning but one has to wonder how he knows what that little frozen bird was thinking as he fell. True, we hear birds chirping and singing. Could some of the songs not be sad? I like to think the little thing was a realist and just before landing thought to himself, “Oh, Shit.”
The birds in our area seem to be smart enough to stay where it is warm, perhaps huddling with the deer which only come out on the warmer and more clear days. Yes, insight often comes when we are facing adversity and many of us have had more than we ever dreamed possible. I’ve often thought it’s a good thing we did not have foresight.
Now, hindsight, is a different matter entirely. If that little frozen bit of poultry could have a second go at life, perhaps he would have stayed in a warmer place that cold, bitter day. He never had a chance to have hindsight or if he did it came too late; but we do have hindsight. Too often we misuse this privilege. In so many ways I think it would be better if we did not have the ability to torture our present condition as we often do with hindsight. We constantly torment ourselves, usually in the early phase of a trial or illness by asking too many questions; questions without answers.
We ask why we did or didn’t go somewhere, why we worked someplace, why we had to be born into a family with rotten DNA, why we married someone or not married someone else, etc. The theme is the same as we ask questions which have no answers. I believe it is an essential part of the human condition to look for answers but they are not in the past. The answers we seek are in the future. Turn around my friend, stop looking back and view the road ahead. Embrace what is and change what you can, using wisdom and insight by choosing good physicians, positive companions, a joy-filled outlook and push yourself as far as you can, expectantly. Do not embrace invalidism, negativity or old age. I know it is a temptation but if you want your independence you have to look forward not back. If you want health, be sure you are doing all you can for yourself. If you seek happiness, strive to be all you are designed to be, all your Maker intended for you to be.
Looking back should be used for sweet memories, reflection of lessons learned and grief, yes, for those loved ones lost. Each of us made bad choices, many times and each of us have regrets for that which we did not choose. We can honor the past without bitterness, learn from it without regret and embrace the sum total of it all as that which makes us who we are. We have all been given the gift of free choice in this world. That is how we learn, as painful as it is sometimes. We are all also the loser/victim at times in the battlefield of life. None of us is exempt from disease, accident or even folly. Welcome to the human condition and embrace the God who created you and will see you through it all.
Use your eyesight, insight and hindsight wisely my friends as they are each a challenge, a gift and a blessing.