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Acupressure aids sore and tired eyes

Doing eye exercises and massaging acupuncture points around the eyes can help maintain healthy vision and prevent myopia. Zhang Qian takes the long view.

Many people who work at computers all day find their eyes get dry, tired and sore. Most use eye drops but far from enough people rest their eyes properly and do eye exercises.

Some people experience blurred vision and severe eye strain, which can be painful. Over a long period eye strain can cause myopia, or near-sightedness.

"I'm quite sure my eyesight must be deteriorating," says 28-year-old Apple Wu, a magazine editor. "Many friends told me to do eye exercises that can help relieve eye fatigue, but I forgot how to do it - we learned in middle school a long time ago."

Doctors recommend regular eye testing and exams, proper eye care, appropriate lenses for near-sightedness, and far-sightedness.

The rate of short-sightedness in China has increased at a tremendous rate in the past 10 years, according to Dr Zheng Qi, director of the Ophthalmology and Optometry Department of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of Medicine.

There were more than 300 million cases of short-sightedness by the end of 2008, representing around a third of the world's total, according to official statistics. Recent research indicates that more than 70 percent of college students are near-sighted.

"Apart from long hours spent reading and writing due to academic pressure, playing video games, surfing the Internet and watching DVD means people are working their eyes to the maximum," says Dr Zheng. Though sometimes the condition is inherited, the major factor in near-sightedness today is long-term eye strain.

Long-term use of the eyes for short distances, such as reading, writing, watching TV and using a computer, often leads to a lengthening of the eye (prolonged optic axis), meaning light is focused "in front of" the retina, rather than "on" it.

To avoid short-sightedness (unless it's inherited), it's important not to be too close to a television, computer or book, and to take breaks every hour or two.

There are easy exercises to help soothe the eye nerves and relax the muscles.

For example, focus on a finger in front of the eyes, moving from near to far, and from far to near, slowly and repeatedly. This helps stretch and relax eye muscles.

Eye massage (acupressure) pressing certain acupuncture points is traditionally taught to students in primary, middle and high schools in China and is effective in relieving eye strain and preventing myopia.

Those who are diagnosed with myopia should get a prescription for corrective lenses and wear them whenever doing close work. The wrong prescription can aggravate the problem.

Contact lenses should not be worn by those with conjunctivitis (pink eye, an infection) or dry eyes.

Damage from UV

Hygiene is important. There should be no risk of contracting disease as long as lenses are worn correctly (no more than 10 hours a day), cleaned in appropriate solution and changed by the manufacturer's suggested date, says Dr Zheng.

Apart from long-term eye strain, exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also damage eyes, especially in summer. Long-term exposure can lead to cataracts.

Around 16 million people go blind every year because of cataracts, about 20 percent of which are caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet light, according to the World Health Organization in 2009.

The damage caused by ultraviolet light is often not outwardly visible; the damage is cumulative so the consequences show up later in life.

"By the time symptoms are present, the damage from UV has already been done," says Denis Fisk, professional development director for Transitions Optical, a major provider of photochromic lenses (that darken in sunlight) to optical manufacturers.

Therefore, it is important to protect the eyes by wearing lenses that block UV radiation as early as possible, he says. Dark glasses that cannot block UV rays will enlarge the pupils and let more UV rays enter and cause damage.

Polaroid lenses can block up to 100 percent of UV rays.

Many people protect their eyes when the sunshine is bright or at high elevations, but up to 80 percent of UV radiation penetrates clouds and can damage the eyes on overcast days, says Fisk.

Polaroid or photochromic lenses are recommended.

Those who don't want to wear glasses should wear hats or carry umbrellas and avoid the midday sun.

Acupressure eye massage

These four exercises massage the orbit of the eye and a point on the cheek. Do them at night or when the eyes feel tired. Afterward, look in the distance for a minute.

1. Zanzhu

Identify two Zanzhu points at the "inside" end of the eyebrow on either sideof the nose. Press thumbs against the points and make tiny circles in place to the count of eight. Repeat seven times. Do this at night or when eyes feel tired.

2. Jingming

Identify two Jingming points on either side of the bridge of the nose. Place thumb and index finger on the points, press down and massage to the count of eight. Repeat seven times.

3. Sibai

Identify the two Sibai points on the cheeks by dropping a vertical line from the eye pupils to a horizontal line from the nostrils. The intersection is the "Sibai" point. Press index fingers on the points, massage in small circles to the count of eight. Repeat seven times.

4. Taiyang

Identify Taiyang points at the temple indentation. Press points with the thumb, close the hand into a fist and slide the fingers over the upper eye socket (count of four) and lower socket (count of four). Repeat seven times.


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