Your health: Slow, deep breathing may help with dry eyes

 
Posted2/9/2015 5:45 AM
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  • Do you suffer from dry eyes? Abdominal breathing, a muscle-relaxation technique, may help people with dry-eye disease produce more tears, a study shows.

    Do you suffer from dry eyes? Abdominal breathing, a muscle-relaxation technique, may help people with dry-eye disease produce more tears, a study shows. Daily Herald file photo

Slow, deep breathing may help dry eyes

Abdominal breathing, a muscle-relaxation technique, may help people with dry-eye disease produce more tears, says a small study in the current issue of the Ocular Surface.

Researchers suggest reduced tear secretion may be caused by an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, The Wall Street Journal reports. The sympathetic system regulates cardiovascular functions such as heart rate and blood pressure while the parasympathetic system regulates rest and relaxation responses.

Tears are produced by the lacrimal glands, which are linked to the parasympathetic system, the researchers said. Dry eye likely affects more than 12 million Americans, according to the National Eye Institute.

Slow, deep breathing may help to restore autonomic control, improving the flow of tears, they said. The technique involves slowly inhaling air through the nose, causing the abdomen to rise instead of the chest. After a short pause, air is slowly exhaled.

Twenty Japanese women ages 20 to 54 years old were recruited for the study, which involved two visits to a research lab. On the first visit, subjects were assigned to breathe either in their normal manner or abdominally for three minutes. Abdominal breathing involved inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six. The groups were reversed on the second visit. Tear volume was measured with a device before and after the breathing sessions, and again after 15 and 30 minutes. Blood pressure and other cardiovascular functions were monitored.

Tear volume increased about 48 percent within 15 minutes of the abdominal-breathing session compared with pre-breathing volume. But tear volume remained constant after normal breathing. No significant increase in tear volume was seen immediately after abdominal breathing or after 30 minutes.

Are long lashes bad for your eyes?

Long lashes may be alluring, but watch out: A new study says they funnel air into the eye rather than protect it, Today reports.

Researchers started off by measuring animals' eyelashes, which were always one-third the width of the eye. Such natural lashes apparently protect against dirt and drying by creating an area of stagnant air in front of the eye, Gannett reports.

Researchers then studied synthetic lashes attached to artificial eyes made from aluminum caps filled with water, Science reports. When the lashes were natural length, they reduced particle deposition and evaporation by half in a wind tunnel. But at longer lengths they actually funneled air into the artificial eyes, drying them out and carrying in particles like dust.

Tests haven't confirmed the same long-lash effect on women, but one doctor says he often sees dry-eye cases when mascara is used to lengthen lashes. "Dry eye is multifactorial, but I think this could be a contributing factor," he says. A corneal surgeon in Los Angeles says other, worse problems can result from eyelash extensions.

Acids in the glue stick that attaches fake lashes can hurt the cornea, he says, and extensions can point toward the cornea and cause "corneal abrasions" when eyelashes grow out. The study, presented at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, has an odd side-benefit: It may also lead to self-cleaning devices on planetary rovers and other machines. (Another study looks at why female allergies are worse.)

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