Special edition: eye health

An unexpected benefit of cataract surgery; better metabolism

Ocular light reaching the human retina not only creates visual images, and its absence produces melatonin, the sleep hormone secreted by the pineal gland at the base of the brain, but increased light reaching the retina after a cloudy cataract is surgical removed has a stimulating effect on metabolism via activation of the adrenal glands.  This was demonstrated almost 50 years ago by German ophthalmologist Fritz Hollwich. [German Medical Weekly 1967]

Blue light damage to the retina

We live in an era when seeming advancements in modern life become new hidden health hazards.  For example, lead pipes were replaced with copper due to the fact even the smallest amount of lead exposure reduces the IQ of children.  However, copper plumbing has simply substituted one heavy metal for another.  Copper plumbing is now cited as a causative agent in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  [Nutrients Dec 2015]

Consider LED lighting (light emitting diodes).  LEDs emit a higher level of potentially toxic blue light than conventional light sources.  Chronic exposure to low-intensity LED/blue light causes “serious retinal injury compared to compact fluorescent lamps.”  [Environmental Health Perspectives March 2014]  Video display terminals also emit blue light.  Who knew?  Are we all going to go blind earlier in life as the use of LED lamps grows?

Solar radiation is another natural source of blue light and sunglasses should be acquired that not only block out potentially harmful UV rays but also the blue spectrum of light.  This is especially important for people who have undergone cataract surgery. [British Journal Ophthalmology June 2006]

A potentially dangerous combination would be the consumption of high-dose vitamin B2 (riboflavin) which increases the sensitivity of the retina and sclera to blue light damage.  [Experimental Eye Research Oct 2015]  Exposure to blue light and riboflavin has been experimentally shown to break down the vitreous gel that fills the center of the eyes and can possibly induce floaters, clumps of protein that interfere with the passage of light to the retina. [Experimental Eye Research June 1987]

An observation of this reporter is that consumers who have inquired about floaters have been found upon questioning to be taking high-dose riboflavin supplements (B100s, B50s).  Riboflavin should probably not exceed 5-10 milligrams in multivitamins and B complex formulas.

Fortunately, there are some ways to protect against blue light retinal damage.  Lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoid pigments found in the central retina that are derived from the diet protect the visual center of the eye (the macula) from blue light damage. [Nutrients May 2013; Nutrients April 2013]  What’s needed is for health authorities and the Food & Nutrition Board to order fortification of foods with lutein to protect the human visual system from this man-made threat.  But don’t expect that anytime soon.  So fortification of the diet with lutein/zeaxanthin is of growing importance, especially because Americans are living longer and need to get more mileage out of their eyes.

Sunglass lenses that filter out UV and blue light up to 455 nanometers (since the spectrum of light from 415-455 nanometers is the most damaging) are also important. [PLoS One Aug 2013]

Blue light; out of your mind

Mania (madness, derangement, delusions) can be triggered by blue light exposure.  A regiment of blue light avoidance and use of blue-filtering sun lenses can markedly reduce symptoms of mania [Bipolar Disorders Dec 2014; Bipolar Disorders May 2016]

Sleep: eye therapy

Sleep is a time when the eyes are given a rest.  During sleep the pineal gland secretes a sleep hormone known as melatonin, which also doubles as a powerful antioxidant.

The modern use of artificial light shuts off the secretion of melatonin and induces sleep disturbance.  Low intensity light, particularly blue light, can suppress the secretion of melatonin. [Journal Biological Rhythms Aug 2015]   Nighttime use of LED lights increases exposure to blue light and disrupts sleep patterns. [International Journal Molecular Science Dec 2014] Melatonin is a strong preventive agent against macular degeneration. [Advances Gerontology 2013; Experimental Eye Research Oct 2012]  Which underscores the importance of sleep to naturally produce melatonin to help repair the retina at night.

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