How clean are your eyes, and how sharp is your vision? I threaded needles in my thirties. At 45, about 22years ago, I saw a rainbow in a candle-lit room. I prayed it be no more than a trick of candle-light and not a sign of glaucoma which it turned out to be. Ever since, I have meticulously studied my eyes in the mirror and taken food supplements to combat this eye challenge. I noticed from the mirror examinations that my eyes are sometimes reddish, perhaps dirty, and my vision not so clear. My aim is to try and make the white of the eye as white or nearly as white as a baby’s or a child’s. I know that will be a lot of work, because the health of the eyes is somewhat related to the health of the organs of the body, in particular the liver and the kidneys. In fact, irridology, that branch of medicine which diagnosis present and futuristic health disturbances in the body through the changes they implant on the iris of the eye, leaves us in no doubt that the eyes and the organs are interwoven in health and disease.

This should be an eye-opener to many Nigerians who, today, suffer from a legion of eye disorders. The number of patients in eye clinics has reached such a alarming rate that the eye health industry has responded appropriately with all sorts of eye health food supplements in the last 10years. That is suggesting that the trouble is in the food we eat nowadays. There is a grain of truth in that. The eye is supposed to be fed with certain food factors which are no longer present in sufficient quantum in the food we eat, or absent from it. Not many people appear to be paying sufficient attention to the havoc of sunlight, or to our emotional responses to life’s challenges. Vision-challenged people arrive for consultation or treatment between about 4a.m or 5a.m everyday to take numbers on very long queues. Those who cannot make the early trips bribe nurses or other hospital staff to help them register upfront on the queues. The ophthalmologists are few and overworked, and many patients may spend about 12 hours before they see a doctor. Even then, the doctor may be so tired that the quality of attendance is poor. Many patients are not told what is really wrong with their eyes. They are just given medications and given appointments for another day. All they may learn from their ophthalmologists is that some categories of people are likely to have eye or vision impairment. These include genetically disposed individuals, diabetics, surgery patients, hypertensives, people who work in professionally hazardous environment or people who do not protect their eyes in harsh tropical sunlight. And when it comes to record keeping, information available about what would appear to have hit epidemic proportions is at variance with observable events. For example, the National Eye Institute (NEI) of Nigeria projected that certain vision troubles will double in number between 2010 and 2050. The projections are for Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) from 2.1million to five million; cataracts (2.4million to 50million); Diabetic retinopathy from 7.7million to 14.6million; Glaucoma 2.7million to 6.3million. These are very conservative figures, in my view.

One of the problems many vision challenged people are not aware of is LIPOFUSCIN deposit on sensitive eye matter. Lipofuscin is a yellow brownish pigment found in some organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart muscles, the retina of the eye, adrenal glands, nerve cells and ganglia cells. It is yet unclear how lipofuscin pigmentation occurs. But a common opinion is that it is free-radical induced and is a part of the aging process. This underscores the need for antioxidant protection of all organs against Oxygen free radical induced oxidative damage in any part of the body. If Lipofuscin forms on the retina, that means the optic nerve cannot transfer light impressions to the brain for analysis and interpretation.

As we say, there are a thousand and one possible causes of vision impairment. We cannot discuss them all here or expertly. Some of these possible troubles are…

Bleeding

Blood vessels may have become so weak and fragile that they leak on the retina or other eye structures. To seal the leaks, Rutin, a member of the bioflavonoid family, is often prescribed. So is Silica, a connective tissue hardner. Pawpaw leaf extract supports the production of blood platelets which prevents bleeding. Bioflavonoids, found in the yellow, red and blue pigment of plants or in dietary food supplements, protect the retina against oxidative stress and damage, apart from promoting blood circulation to it and within it.

Lutein and Zeazanthin

Mother Nature put Lutein and Zeazanthin into the lens, the eye and the retina, along with another Carotenoid, Astazanthin, to prevent the blue aspect of sunlight from damaging these organs. Sunlight comprises seven colours…red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Blue colour damages the eyes. The lens contains a gelatinous fluid which directs light into the retina. When it is healthy, this fluid is like the white of a raw egg. But when the blue spectrum of sunlight falls on it, and there is no Lutein, Zeazanthin and Astazanthin in the lens to filter off the blue light or to absorb it, this fluid in the lens is literally “cooked” and becomes like the white of boiled egg. In this condition, the lens cannot transmit light. This is Cataract. Many ophthalmologists did not know about Lutein, Zeazanthin and Astazanthin (which is more powerful than Lutein and Zeazanthin) until about one decade ago. Even then, they prescribed only small dosages of them. Nowadays, however, dosages in Nigeria have gone as high as about 10mg. This is evident in some popular eye remedies in Nigeria, including Forever vision, Vision saver, Cataract clear, Maxi vision, Eye Max, See clearly et.c.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Sugar damages many molecules in the body. The sugar of diabetes damages nerves throughout the body, especially nerves in the eyes. In addition to other eye nutrients, Lion’s Mane mushroom is good for the repair and regeneration of damaged nerve cells. It was discovered during the Second World War by an Italian doctor who, on account of her work with this mushroom, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. The phosphate tissue or cell salts also support protection for and healing of damaged Nerve cells. Vitamin B1 (thiamine), a nerve vitamin, is indispensable for nerve health.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP)

This is a group of eye diseases which affect the retina of the eye, a light-sensitive thin layer at the back of the eye. It picks light from the eye and passes it on to the optic nerve for transmission to the brain. The cells of the retina are largely rod-like or cone-like. This gives them their names…rods and cones. There are about 120million rods and between 6 and 7million cones in each eye. The cones exclusively populate the yellowish central area of the eye called the macular, the seat of fine vision. The herb bilbery found in many eye formulas protects the macular and other cells. Rods enable us to see in dim light. Cones enable us to see colours clearly. Thus, people who do not see well in dim lighting, and, therefore, suffer from night blindness, most probably have retinal rod problems. Colour blindness, on the other hand, suggests retinal cone cells deterioration. Retinitis Pigmentosa is believed to be a genetic disease which gradually damages the retina and slowly leads to blindness.

The rods and the cones are healthy when the eye is well supplied with Vitamin A. That is why Nigerian infants are now given Vitamin A injections at six months and one year and, thereafter, every six months till the child is five years of age. It has now come to light that, no matter how much Vitamin A is consumed, the eye may not profit from it in a situation of zinc deficiency. That is why you would find in many proprietary eye formulas worth their salt such food factors as help the eye…Vitamin A or Beta carotene, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Zinc, Copper, Chromium, Grape seed Extract, Bilbery, Alpha Lipoic et.c. Unfortunately, poor quality Vitamin A is what dominates the Nigerian Vitamin A market. Many people are not knowledgeable about Zinc or the combination of both for eye care. Many do not know also that copper goes with zinc as too much zinc may cause copper deficiency and copper deficiency may cause anaemia which is not good for vision. The best form of Vitamin A is water soluble Vitamin A. The regular Vitamin A is fat soluble and the body cannot store too much of it without possible damage to the liver.  Apart from the use of eye antioxidants, RP may be slowed down or helped with larger doses of Vitamin C, soluble Vitamin A or Stem Cell therapy, to check the activities of mutated cells which cause this condition by making the cells underproduce or overproduce certain proteins which are dangerous for eye health in subnormal or abnormally high quantum.

Retinal detachment

A lay man’s way to understand this is that the retina, attached to the back of the eye, loosens from the attachment and peels off or detaches. Some categories of people at risk of a retinal detachment are those who have had eye cataracts surgically removed, severely near-sighted people, those who have had eye injury or traumatised eyes or people with a family history. It signals itself with flashes of light, lots of floaters, darkening of side vision. Sometimes, due to nutritional deficiencies and antioxidant defences to maintain the attachment, the retina can become torn. Fluid in the eye can then infiltrate the back of the retina through the tear and cause detachment.

As stated earlier, it is not possible in a column such as this to discuss every possible cause of poor or failing vision. I was 45 when I had glaucoma diagnosis. I could not see more than 30 meters ahead. There was always a white sheet of light before my gaze. Before then, I had been experiencing night blindness. Car or street lights fractured into lines when I looked at them. Then, I began to add to my diet nutritional supplement called LUTEIN EYES  on the basis of information that it may improve vision. It was helping. Then, one day, I managed to read through the tiny print of the nutritional facts on the label. What I discovered surprised me. The product contained LUTEIN AND ZEAZANTHIN which were commercially sourced from MARIGOLD flowers. Marigold was plentiful in the wild in Nigeria. Florists knew of it more as an ornamental or flower decoration plant. Each flower head cost about #100 in those days in Lagos. I got to know that the farm of Air Vice-Marshall Shekari (rtd) in Jos grew it. So, I began to order whole Marigold plant from there which I used either as tea or as a vegetable in rice, beans or other meals. It worked. My vision cleared. And I soon forgot myself and about Marigold. Now that the glaucoma has resurged, I am back on the starting block.

Marigold flower

Not all Marigold is medicinal. The medicinal is called CALENDULA officinalis. With pale green leaves and golden red flowers, it has been used by the Greeks and the Romans and other populations for centuries for various skin problems, scanty menstruation, the balancing of female reproductive system hormones, ulcer, digestive disorders, and, lately, as an anti-biotic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Lately, it has become valuable in breast cancer medicine because of its high amounts of Lutein.

In telegraph, the British newspaper informs us of the remarkable recovery from near blindness by Harry Marsland, a retired optician:

“A retired optician believes he is the first person in Britain to recover from a degenerative eye condition–after taking a food supplement containingmarigolds.

“Harry Marsland feared he would lose his sight completely after developing dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a condition responsible for half of all cases of blindness in this country.

“AMD had claimed the sight in his right eye and the 73-year-old’s vision had become so bad that he could not get around without the help of his wife. He was even considering learning Braille, fearing that his left eye would follow the same fate.

“However, after trying various treatments to no avail, Mr Marsland finally decided to experiment taking a vitamin supplement containing extracts from the orange flowers. Within months of taking the capsules, which are not available on the NHS, he regained vision in his left eye.

“Mr Marsland, from Oundle, Northants, said: “I now know, professionally, that I have recovered almost completely from the effects of the dry AMD in my left eye. I am the first person to have such good fortune.

“I have recovered 95 percent of the sight in my left eye which is miraculous, considering that at one point I was literally blind in the dark.”

“The improvement in his sight has allowed Mr Marsland to drive a car again and enjoy reading without the aid of a magnifying glass.

“He lost vision in his right eye in 2001 to wet AMD, a more severe form of the condition, and since then also began suffering problems with his left eye.

“Mr Marsland had tried an experimental laser treatment – photo dynamic therapy – and various vitamin preparations – including Visionace, Vita-Lux plus, I. Caps and PreserVision, without success.

“But in 2007, his ophthalmologist handed him a leaflet he had picked up at a conference, extolling the benefits of a supplement containing marigolds – called Macushield.

“He decided to try it, spending £150 on a year’s supply and was shocked by its effectiveness.

“Mr Marsland said he believes it could offer hope to millions of AMD sufferers.

He added: “I decided to this off my own back. I treated myself, which is the very thing you’re not supposed to do in any profession.

“As a retired professional, I feel a responsibility to get this message across to as many people as possible.”

“Macushield contains lutein, found in spinach, and zeaxanthin, the yellow pigment found in corn – both of which are used in other treatments. It also contains meso-zeaxanthin, derived from marigolds, which was a nutrient Mr Marsland had not tried before.

“Dry age-related macular degeneration happens when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down and sufferers experience a gradual loss of central vision and a fading of colours. It is the most common cause of blindness in the over-60s.”

Natural Beauty Portrait

Eye promise

This is one of the Lutein and Zeazanthin-based vision supplements of it, it is said on the product information sheet:

“Benefits include visual acuity by improving vision in tone deaf situations like needle point or reading in low light. Reduced glare recovery time, that is faster recovery from temporary blindness caused by high intensity lighting such as automobile or stadium light. Improved contrast sensitivity, ability to discern objects from their background, diminished light sensitivity and discomfort less visual discomfort in sunlight when exposed to brought light. Increased visual processing speed increased MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density).

Water soluble Vitamin A

We can obtain vitamin A directly or indirectly. But the process of making it absorbable in its fat-soluble form is cumbersome. Some people who have low-functioning thyroid glands cannot do this efficiently. The following report by an expert explain why the proprietary water-soluble form is better for everyone:

“There are availability of two forms of vitamin A in the human diet. These are (1) PREFORMED VIT.A (retinol & it’s esterified form, retinyl ester) (2) PROVITAMIN A carotenoids. Dairy products, fish, & meat (especially liver) are the food sources from where Preformed Vitamin A is found from animal sources. For the Provitamin A, the chief sources are the Carotenoids, with the beta-carotene being the largest. There are also other Provitamin A as in alpha-carotene & beta-cryptoxanthin. The body converts these plant Pigments into Vitamin A. Both Provitamin and Previtamin must be metabolized intracellularly to Retinal and Retinoic acid, the active forms of Vitamin A to support the Vitamin’s important biological functions. Why then, SOLUBILIZED VIT A, and not just any other Vitamin A? It is known that the degree of efficacy of any chemical is dependent on many factors among which is it’s solubility and absorbability. It is found that Vit. A must be in form of MICELLES (an aggregate of molecules in a colloidal solution) in the intestinal lumen before it can be absorbed by the duodenal mucosal cells. In order words the Vit. A must be in form of a colloidal solution before it can be absorbed. For this to happen, Vit. A must be SOLUBILIZED TO MICELLES.  Hence the need to have an already SOLUBILIZED form of Vit A for prompt and maximum absorption.”

As I said, I am back on the starting block with Marigold flowers, this time the whole powder. I may no longer be able to thread a needle at 67, but I can support the health of my eyes by feeding them with antioxidants and by constantly cleaning my liver, kidney, spleen and intestine, which, in many ways, contribute in no small measure to vision health or degeneration.

according to (1)U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. NIH, National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements.(2) Johnson EJ, Russell RM. Beta-carotene. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd Ed. London and New York : Informa Healthcare; 2010: 778-91. (3) Ross A. Vitamin A and Carotenoids. In: Shils M, Shike M, Ross A, Caballero B, Cousins R, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease.10th Baltimore,. MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006: 351-75. (4) Solomons NW. Vitamin A. In: Bowman B, Russell R, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition.9th Ed. Washington, DC: International Life Sciences Institute; 2006: 157-83. (5) Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic. Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum,Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001