Adequate blinking and rest are prerequisites for optimum eye health

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Majority of the people ignore eye health and do not take precautions

New Delhi, 18 January 2019: According to studies, lack of awareness about eye-related diseases and its symptoms leads to delay in seeking treatment. While diseases affecting the cornea (front of the eye) are easily diagnosed, those affecting the retina (back of the eye) are rarely recognized. Despite being one of the most vital organs of the body, eye health is ignored by many.

Retinal diseases such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) lead to chronic poor vision. Diabetic macular edema (DME) is the most common causes of moderate vision loss in patients with Diabetic retinopathy (DR). AMD constitutes for 8.7% of blindness in the world.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Apart from the deterioration of eye health due to certain conditions, expanding areas of arid land, air pollution and greater exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation all present potential health hazards to the eyes. The cornea, eyelid, the sclera and even the lens—are all exposed directly to the environment. Rising temperatures and shifting atmospheric circulation patterns force dry air into regions. Drier air means that more people are likely to suffer from dry eye, a condition in which tears aren’t produced properly or evaporate too quickly. There is no evidence that drier conditions cause dry eye, but they can accelerate symptoms in people who are prone to dry eye. Air pollution has long been linked to respiratory disorders; more recently it’s been shown to play a role in eye disease.”

Recurrent infections over a lifetime lead to scarring inside of the eyelids, which in turn causes the eyelashes to turn inward and brush against the cornea, eventually resulting in damage that impairs vision.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Eye exercises may not improve or preserve vision, help eye health, or reduce the need for glasses. Our vision depends factors such as the shape of our eyeball and the health of the eye tissues. Neither of these can be altered greatly by eye exercises.”

Using a computer does not affect eye health. However, staring at a computer screen all day can contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. People who stare at a computer screen for long periods tend not to blink as often as usual, which can cause the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. To help prevent eyestrain, adjust the lighting so it doesn’t create a glare or harsh reflection on the screen, rest your eyes briefly every 20 minutes, and make a conscious effort to blink regularly so that your eyes stay well lubricated.

Moderation and variety is the mantra for a balanced diet

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Food intolerance and food allergy are common terms that are often used interchangeably. But the two are not the same. Symptoms are generally benign in food intolerance and often limited to digestive signs and symptoms. An allergic food reaction, however, may be severe or even life-threatening and may occur even by eating a microscopic amount, touching or inhaling the food

There are IgG food tests to detect insensitivities to various foods. Based on the results, individuals are advised to either omit these foods from their diet or reduce the ingestion of these foods or to consume them on some sort of rotating diet.

While few published studies (Monogr Allergy. 1996;32:221-5; Gut. 2004; 53:1459) have shown the benefits of elimination diets in terms of improvement in symptoms, many reputed international bodies such as the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) do not recommend IgG tests to detect food allergies or food intolerances / sensitivities.

“The scientific studies that are provided to support the use of this test are often out of date, in non-reputable journals and many have not even used the IgG test in question”, says AAAAI.

The EAACI Task Force Report published in July 2008 in Allergy, the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology concluded that “foodspecific IgG4 does not indicate (imminent) food allergy or intolerance, but rather a physiological response of the immune system after exposition to food components. Therefore, testing of IgG4 to foods is considered as irrelevant for the laboratory workup of food allergy or intolerance and should not be performed in case of foodrelated complaints.”

The CSACI position statement on the use of food IgG tests says: “the inappropriate use of this test only increases the likelihood of false diagnoses being made, resulting in unnecessary dietary restrictions and decreased quality of life.”

Also, these tests are very expensive and detect only a limited number of food intolerances.

All lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, CAD, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism are now recognized as chronic inflammatory diseases and have been linked to protein in diet.

Proteins are broken down in the body to peptides and then to amino acids. Wheat is broken down into peptides but not amino acids. This is because humans lack the enzymes to completely digest the complex proteins in wheat. Therefore, wheat, which forms a staple part of diet for most Indians, is a chronic inflammatory substance, which has been implicated in the inflammatory process in chronic diseases, as it may cause inflammation even beyond the gut.

Our ancient rituals and traditions have given us a way out of this conundrum. They advocate the principles of “variety” and “moderation” i.e. eat a variety of food, and eat in moderation.

They also recommend including all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white) and six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) for a balanced diet.

There are several examples of food rotation in our mythology.

Fasting is a tradition for us. But, fasting does not mean ‘not eating’. It means omitting certain foods from the diet on the day of the fast.

Our Vedas advocate that one should observe 80 fasts in a year and these should involve not eating cereals (wheat). Observe one wheat fast a week. Eat only one light meal on the day of the fast they should not contain carbohydrates or wheat cereals. Wheat cereals can be replaced by besan ki roti or Samak rice (fruit), singhare ki roti (fruit), kuttu ki roti (fruit) or sabu dana. Use rock salt in your food instead of usual salt as it helps in better mineral absorption.

For example, wheat and grains are avoided during Monday fasts; non vegetarian food and alcohol are prohibited on Tuesdays; sour foods are completely avoided during Friday fasts.

These traditions were probably a way to desensitize the body to potential food allergens.

But people have mostly stopped observing weekly fasts with change in lifestyle owing to increasing urbanization.  And, possibly since then the incidence of lifestyle diseases has increased.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania   (CMAAO)

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Past National President IMA