The Eyes Have It!

Taking a break from Covid-related news, I came across a 2018 article in the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal extolling our marvelous (and maybe underappreciated) eyes.  Certainly those with impaired vision do not take their eyes for granted.  My father in his 80’s suffered a mini-stroke and woke up effectively blind.  He lived another 10 years but his enthusiasm for life waned as he was a voracious reader.  Many others have had sight complications earlier in life or even at birth.  But for most of us, we rely on our eyes without thinking a whole lot about them.

So, James Peterson’s article “Ten Nice-to-Know Facts About the Eyes” caught my eye, literally, and I thought my blog readers might find this interesting.  So a bit rephrased, here are his 10:

  1. Our eyes are nearly full size at birth.  The rest of the body grows around them!  For those with normal vision about 80% of what we learn and remember is due to sight.  
  2. After the brain, eyes are the most complex and powerful organ in our bodies.  With them we distinguish shapes, colors, depth, and adapt to changes in light.  The tiny muscles controlling the eyes don’t get time off — they are on 24/7.
  3. The eyes feed images to our brain for translation, allowing us to see.  If anything disrupts that transmission, all is blank.
  4. We blink about 5 million times a year, helping to lubricate the eyes and remove debris.
  5. The eye is composed of over 2 million working parts (rods, cones, muscles) and over 100 million cells.  A stack of 100 million dollar bills would be 7 miles high!  These types of numbers are hard to fathom.
  6. Eye color is determined by the amount of melanin (a natural pigment) in the front layer of the eye.  Melanin has protective properties.
  7. Eye health is affected by our diet.  Fruits and dark leafy greens are particularly good for eyes.
  8. Our eyes have 256 unique characteristics, whereas fingerprints have 40.  Meaning, eyes will probably become increasingly used identifiers.
  9. Regular eye exams will alert us to glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts, conditions typical in older adults and which early detection may allow for treatment.
  10. Eye transplants are not in the offing.  Connecting 100 million nerve fibers is beyond the current or foreseen abilities of medical technology.  If we’re fortunate, we get one good set of eyes to use and care for.

So, on your next run, perhaps you’ll find yourself thinking about the many virtues of our eyes while navigating the trail, watching flowers, birds, and the bikers, walkers, and other runners coming along (with or without masks).  And then go home and enjoy a kale salad!

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