OVERSTRAIN is injurious to every structure and every organ. This applies not only to the human body but to every piece of machinery. If one runs an engine too fast, if one tries to get the utmost power out of a motorcar, etc., then there is overstrain and injury, and occasionally destruction results.
The human organs and structures are influenced by the factors mentioned to a considerable extent. Runners, climbers, wrestlers, can stand only a certain amount of strain; if overstrain takes place, then the heart may get permanently enlarged or the lungs may give way, etc.
The eyes are among the most sensitive organs of the human body, yet on the eyes most people put needless strain, disregarding the fact that their power is not limitless.
Before the War, thousands of people strained their eyes and injured them permanently by over-strong light, which is very hurtful to the eyes, by peering and straining to read print which was insufficiently clear. There are people who have the unfortunate habit of continuing to read when the light is failing, who are, in fact, quite proud that they can read in the half-light.
In innumerable cases, people with eye-strain go to the oculist or optician and are given glasses which, as a rule, are unnecessary and are even harmful. Eyes which are over-strained can be normalized by rest and proper exercises, which however, are too detailed to describer in this article. There are exercises which can benefit the short-sighted, the far-sighted, inflamed eyes, over-strained eyes, and exercises which would benefit those who are affected by cataract, glaucoma, iritis, etc. The duty of protecting the eyesight is particularly essential in he present terrible times.
Before the War we were exposed to unreasonable glare and the complaint of the eyes that the light was too strong for them was disregarded. Some people are foolish enough to protect themselves against the natural sunlight by wearing dark glasses, to their hurt. One might write a special article on the evils of wearing dark glasses, which unfortunately have become more and more fashionable during the holiday season.
While over-strong glare is harmful, very serious injury is, on the other hand, being done at present by the necessity for insufficient lighting. Light must not only be dimmed, but in many cases be extinguished, and we have to group our way in Egyptian darkness and we try to read the street names and the names or umbers of houses by peering and by straining our eyes to the utmost.
It is the duty and should be the principle of every man, woman and child not to strain their eyes at the present time more than they can possibly help, not to read when they cannot do so easily and naturally, without strain. Or, if slight strain is absolutely necessary, then the eyes should be rested by blinking and by closing them for a moment. This refreshes them, strengthens them and enables them to do better work if they are called upon to do so.
Over-strained eyes very frequently get hot and inflamed looking. people who are suffering from hot and inflamed eyes may bathe them in cold water. Sometimes cold water is best, but other times hot water. When the eyes are inflamed, it is very helpful to splash them twenty to thirty of fifty times with warm water, alternating with cold water; this will vastly improve their condition.
THERE are many doctors and surgeons, among them Sir Arbuthnot Lane, who attribute most diseases to chronic constipation and self-poisoning from the bowel. At the risk of being considered one-sided we venture to assert that most eye troubles, whatever their name may be, are due to strain.
People who suffer from eye-strain may consult the chemist and relieve the discomfort they feel with eye drops, or they may go to an optician of oculist. The optician or oculist will test the eye of the patient and prescribe suitable glasses which will assist the weakening and overstrained eye to see more or less normally.
The sufferer is very pleased with the effect of the glasses but as he has not been told that it is dangerous to overstrain the eye, he will continue to overstrain it, with the result that in due course the glasses, which have given so much comfort, are more or less useless and then stronger glasses will be given. From year to year stronger glasses will have to be used and at last the patient will find his eye-sight very gravely deteriorated or he may be told that he suffers from one of the numerous eye disease, which are due, directly or indirectly, to overstrain.
Let us study the problem of strain in other parts of the body.
Constipation is a great evil. It not only produces poisoning from the bowel, so eloquently described by Sir Arbuthnot Lane, but it produces another and very undesirable result of overstraining. If people are badly constipated excrement is apt to collect in the bowel, partly in the caecum which is situated in the right side, in the appendix region, and partly near the bowel exit. Constipation leads to a permanent enlargement of the bowel through strain, and a bowel so strained will not easily recover its normality.
Innumerable people, especially athletes, suffer from heart strain. The heart beats faster when a person moves, and still faster when a person is running or subjects the body to heavy exertion. The heart will respond to strain up to a point and then recovers its normality, but if too heavy a strain is put on the heart, the heart gets badly enlarged and may be injured permanently or almost permanently. We remember the case of young man who habitually cycled on a push bicycle up to the top of Hampstead Heath from the West End of London.
It took him seventeen minutes and he rode every day up to Hampstead Heath, looked at his watch and then said to himself “seventeen minutes”. One day he felt out of sorts for some reason or other, his instinct told him out of sorts for some reason or other, his instinct told him not to cycle at top speed, but he was determined not to abandon his routine ride. With tremendous exertion he achieved his aim in seventeen minutes, but he was terribly out of breath, suddenly collapsed, and was taken to the hospital. He had overstrained his heart and he will never ride a bicycle again.
Fatigue and pain are natures warning, against overstrain. We can overstrain our muscles, which is a relatively minor matter, but we can overstrain the arches of our feet and get flat feet which are not always easily curable. Nature warns us emphatically against heart strain and lung strain by producing violent discomfort and panting; she warns us emphatically against overstraining our bladder and bowel in the manner described, but we do always pay attention to these warnings.
Nature warns us emphatically against overstraining the eyes by producing fatigue, pain and inflammation, but most of us pay no attention and go on overworking our eyes. If no glasses could be obtained, we should be more careful about preserving our eyesight.
It is usually believed that eye-strain is due to poor lighting, small print and such-like factors. Every truly experienced eye specialist is aware that eye-strain is not merely a matter of the eye which can be corrected by glasses. Innumerable factors affect eyesight. Constipation or a faulty diet injure the body as a whole and therefore the visual power of the eye.
Diseases and disorders of every kind leave their imprint upon the eye. Anaemic girls have usually poor eyesight. Plethoric and over-fed individuals are apt to have inflamed eyes and eye troubles of various kinds. Last, but not least, nerve factors have a considerable influence upon the apparatus of vision. Worry and anxiety undermine the power of resistance of the body and the power of visual accommodation.
If a man is tired he will seek rest and sleep. If his eyes are tired he strains and strains and injures the eye by making it do work beyond its power. The individual with eye-strain does not look casually at the printed page or at the countryside, but he stares hard. Staring and overstrain go together.
If one wishes to improve the eyesight of people, one should teach them how to use their eyes, how to strengthen them and, before all how to rest them. If the reader feels that his eyes get hot and tired he should not force those most delicate organs to go beyond their strength, but he should give them rest. If he closes his eyes for a few minutes and covers them with his hands, he will be able to continue reading without undue strain.
Moreover, wonderful rest is given to the tired eyes by frequent blinking. Individuals who stare frequently do not blink at all, and give their eyes no rest whatever. At the present time, much injury is inflicted upon the eyes through the war. The lighting is frequently insufficient.
Therefore double and treble work is thrown upon the eye. We got out from a well-lighted room into pitch-dark streets and try to see and strain and strain the eye. The eyes can be worn out as easily as the teeth by overworking them. They can be preserved as well as the teeth by right nutrition, by right exercise and by adequate rest.
It seems to us that the preservation of eyesight should be an important part of tuition in all the schools, from the elementary schools upwards.
Eye defects and diseases are created in the tenderest age by strain and overstrain, by work and overwork, by relentless abuse of the eyesight which is totally unnecessary.
The oculist and optician do very useful work, but far more important than these, are the few individuals who have studied the science of preservation of sight and of the recreation of sight by natural means, by the use of appropriate exercises, rest and various other means, which would be leading us too far to describe at the moment, but which will be dealt with in due course. Inferior eyesight can be normalized and the use of glasses can be dispensed with in thousands of cases, even if the suffering individuals have been accustomed to read only with glasses for years and for decades.