HEALTH TRIBUNE Wednesday, June 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India
 


Save your eyes from summer heat
Dr R. Kumar
T
he sun emits not only heat which can cause problems like dry eye. Sunlight also brings with it invisible ultraviolet and infra-red rays that can cause life-long damage to your cornea, lens and retina.

AYURVEDA & YOU
Jeera: Carminative and digestive herb
Dr R. Vatsyayan
S
ince times immemorial jeera has been an inseparable part of the Indian kitchen. Early ayurvedic literature gives ample importance to its medicinal value and even today it continues to benefit mankind whichever way we use it, whether as a spice or as a herb.

INFO CAPSULE
Hair cell growth
WASHINGTON:
The discovery by University of Michigan scientists that gene therapy can grow new auditory hair cells in adult guinea pigs could lead to new treatments for human deafness and age-related hearing loss.

  • Childhood cancer survivors
  • Exercise for women
  • Bacteria mutate more when stressed
  • Gene that helps in artery formation
  • Predicting patient’s survival
 
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Save your eyes from summer heat
Dr R. Kumar

The sun emits not only heat which can cause problems like dry eye. Sunlight also brings with it invisible ultraviolet and infra-red rays that can cause life-long damage to your cornea, lens and retina. Complete protection against visible as well as invisible spectrum of sunlight is essential for the health of your eyes and for preventing diseases like cataract and macular degeneration. Most children get between 50-80% of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18. This is dangerous because unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the eyes and skin, immune system suppression and even cancer.

UVA rays burn the upper layers of the skin (the epidermis) and cause sunburns, skin aging and wrinkling, and can contribute to skin cancer. UVB rays penetrate the lower layers of the skin (the dermis) and cause sunburns besides cataracts, immune system damage and skin cancer.

Studies show that over a period of time exposure to ultraviolet light can contribute to a number of complications to your eyes. Some are temporary, but others can permanently compromise vision or require expensive surgery.

(i) Cornea/retina burns: Over-exposure to ultraviolet light can cause a sudden but temporary, painful burn to the eye’s surface. Photokeratitis or "snow blindness," can occur a few hours after activities like skiing or sunbathing. Staring directly at the sun — a source of intense visible light, can permanently scar the retina, the delicate lining at the back of the eye responsible for vision.

(ii) Cataracts: Exposure to UV radiation over many years is one important and preventable cause of cataracts, the commonest cause of blindness in India. Moreover, if you’ve had cataract surgery to restore vision, you may be even more vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. By popularising UV protective glasses, we as a nation can prevent blindness due to cataract and achieve reduction in health care costs and increase productivity, by reducing the incidence of blindness.

(iii) Pterygium (pronounced as te-rij-e-um), or a benign, abnormal growth on the eye’s surface: A pterygium can also grow over the cornea, partially blocking vision, as a result of chronic UV exposure. If sight is threatened, surgery may be required to remove the pterygium.

(iv) Macular degeneration: A condition that causes age-related damage in the central vision area. Macular degeneration is the major cause of blindness among Indians over age 50 and has been linked to cumulative UV exposure.

(v) Dry eyes: Wind and sun may also cause/ worsen the cases of dry eyes.

(vi) Cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes can be traced to UV overexposure.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses provide one of the best sources of UV protection. While some contact lenses are now available with UV protection, they should not take the place of sunglasses. Sunglasses block out 99 to 100 per cent of UV-A and UV-B radiation, and also shield the eyelids from sun exposure. Sun exposure can damage the eyes.

The best way to protect the eyes is to wear sunglasses that provide 100 per cent UV protection. Check the label when you purchase sunglasses. Many manufacturers make fun, multi-coloured and decorated sunglasses for your child.

When choosing sunglasses, keep in mind the following guidelines:

Check the label for UV protection (look for 99 or 100 per cent protection of UV-A and UV-B).

Look for sunglasses that are close fitting. These will prevent UV rays from filtering in from above. Look for sunglasses with larger lenses or wrap-around sunglasses to prevent light from entering through the sides. Look for polarised lenses to help reduce glare. Do not be misguided by price — higher priced sunglasses usually represent fashion trends or durability, not UV protection. Dark-colored sunglasses don’t necessarily provide better protection. A chemical coating applied to the lens is responsible for its UV protection; not the colour of the lens.

Remember, if sunglasses do not fit properly, their UV protection is lost. Sunglasses that do not fit well allow sun to seep in from the top and the sides, still exposing your eyes to potential damage. Some medications contain photosensitizing chemicals that make the eyes especially sensitive to the sunlight — Psoralen, tetracycline, doxycycline and sulfa drugs.

Children are more susceptible to UV exposure because the lens in their eye is clearer. With age, lenses darken and tend to block more UV light to the back of the eye. Avoid direct sun exposure in the late morning and mid-afternoon, especially at high altitudes. This is when we are most susceptible to UV rays. Wear a wide-brimmed hat in addition to sunglasses for extra protection. Eclipses are never safe to watch. The sun can be viewed directly only when using filters specifically designed for this purpose. Such filters usually have a thin layer of aluminum, chromium or silver deposited on their surfaces that attenuates ultraviolet, visible and infrared energy. One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is a number 14 welders’ glass. Damage to the eyes comes predominantly from invisible infrared wavelengths. The fact that the sun appears dark in a filter or that you feel no discomfort does not guarantee that your eyes are safe.

The writer, a senior eye specialist, was earlier associated with 
the PGI, Chandigarh

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AYURVEDA & YOU
Jeera: Carminative and digestive herb
Dr R. Vatsyayan

Since times immemorial jeera has been an inseparable part of the Indian kitchen. Early ayurvedic literature gives ample importance to its medicinal value and even today it continues to benefit mankind whichever way we use it, whether as a spice or as a herb. Called "jeeraka" in Sanskrit and cuminum cyminum scientifically, it is commercially grown mostly in all parts of tropical India.

According to ayurvedic materia medica, jeera is pungent in taste and is light, dry, sharp and hot in effect. It pacifies "vata" and "kapha" in the body but aggravates "pitta". Jeera contains many important nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and traces of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron in different proportions. Though jeera has been known for various medicinal properties affecting different systems of the body, its main area of action essentially seems to be the gastro-intestinal tract.

Apart from having the marked digestive and carminative effects, jeera is also a wind repellent, anti-colic and intestinal absorbent agent. Of the vast range of its effects on human body, jeera acts as an anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, blood purifier, diuretic, glactogauge (that enhances milk engendering during lactation) and uterine stimulant medicine. Some ancient texts described it as "katu paushtic", meaning a bitter tonic. It is given in conditions where a patient complains of the anorexia, nausea, indigestion, distension of the abdomen, colic pains, piles and intestinal worms. Jeera helps treat urinary stasis, prevents stone formation and has a number of uses if applied externally.

As a single herb, jeera is best used in roasted form. Taking a pinch of roasted and crushed jeera shortly before meals enhances appetite whereas if used after food it helps in faster digestion. To allay severe or chronic indigestion, hiccup and abdominal distention, crush jeera, ajwain, black pepper, rock salt and small hararh in equal parts. This "jeerakadi churna" if taken in a daily dose of one to two gms twice a day, with warm water or whenever required, is simple and safe remedy to get the abdominal wind dispelled and to gain symptomatic relief from colic pain.

Jeera is also a very good medicine for mucous diarrhoea and non-specific colitis and is used in combination with other medicines to cure the irritable bowel syndrome. As a simple and safe remedy, by crushing 50 gm of it with an equal quantity of each of nagarmotha, sonth, bark of kutaja and 250 gm of pulp of bael and taking two gm of this powder two or three times a day helps in binding and clearing the stool. Decoction of jeera and dry dhania helps to cure vomiting and loss of appetite occurring during pregnancy.

As a delicacy and appetizer there is a common practice to serve jeera wate before meals. It is available at many eateries, but to overcome the risk of contamination and infection it is better to make this gastronomic and digestive recipe at home. Taking two tablespoonful of each of roasted jeera powder and lemon juice, one table spoonful each of pounded mint leaves, dry mango powder called "amchur" and table salt, 50 gm of sugar, half teaspoonful of black salt and black pepper and a pinch of hing makes about five to seven glasses of jeera water. Besides waking up the taste buds and enhancing the gastric secretions, "jal jeera" also makes a freshening summer drink.

Ayurveda has a large number of classic medicines where jeera is used as an important ingredient. To name only two, Jeerkadyarishta and Hingashtak Churna are the most famous digestive medicines. Apart from the jeera used in Indian kitchen, which is known as "safed" (white) jeera, there is another variety called black jerera. It grows on high altitudes and is costlier than the former. Though considered a separate herb, black jeera has more or less the same medicinal properties as that of the common white jeera.

The writer is a Ludhiana-based senior ayurvedic consultant. Phones 2423500, 2431500, 98140-33977. E mail- [email protected]
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INFO CAPSULE
Hair cell growth

WASHINGTON: The discovery by University of Michigan scientists that gene therapy can grow new auditory hair cells in adult guinea pigs could lead to new treatments for human deafness and age-related hearing loss.

According to a report in news.com.au, since the discovery, in the late 1980s, that birds can spontaneously regenerate damaged hair cells, scientists have been trying to find a way to induce the replacement of lost hair cells in mammals. U-M scientists have now accomplished this goal by inserting a gene called Math1 into non-sensory epithelial cells lining the inner ear. ANI

Childhood cancer survivors

WASHINGTON: Survivors report after years of receiving cancer therapy that they suffer from fatigue and sleep disturbance.

Daniel Mulrooney, M.D., University of Minnesota Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, presented these findings on May 31 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2003 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

"Years after these people have been treated for cancer, they are experiencing these problems. Whether this is a result of the cancer or the treatment will be examined in forthcoming studies", says Mulrooney. ANI

Exercise for women

WASHINGTON: Women enjoy an edge over men as far as response to exercise is concerned. According to a new analysis by Duke University Medical Center researchers, the density of tiny capillaries in the skeletal muscles of women seems to increase at a higher rate than men as a result of exercise. Capillaries are the tiny blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues, including muscle.

For this study, the Duke researchers enrolled 10 men and 12 women who were sedentary, and at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. Participants exercised for 24 weeks at the equivalent of jogging 20 miles per week. Using thin needles, the researchers took leg muscle biopsies before and after exercise training to estimate capillary density. ANI

Bacteria mutate more when stressed

LONDON: A team of French and Mexican researchers has found that bacteria mutate more when stressed, hastening evolution. The finding has broad implications for evolutionary theory and medical research.

Reporting in the latest issue of the journal "Science", the team looked at 787 different strains of the bacterium E. coli, collected from the guts of animals as well as from air, water and sediments worldwide, looking for the production of new mutant bacteria in starved ageing colonies, according to a report in "News in Science." ANI

Gene that helps in artery formation

WASHINGTON: Scientists here have come across a gene that helps in artery development. According to them, the gene also lends a new insight into the developmental signals that distinguish arteries from veins.

Till recently it was not known what signals determined artery and venous identity. Nor was it known that the process of distinguishing artery and veins was governed by genetic signals. ANI

Predicting patient’s survival

WASHINGTON: Physicians believe that certain genes in the breast cancer tissue, removed at diagnosis, can help them predict which patients with poor prognosis will survive.

With this information, doctors can recommend the most appropriate therapy for an individual patient, for example sparing a woman with a poor prognosis the rigorous that accompany aggressive chemotherapy and enabling her to receive novel treatments that might work, according to Dr Melody Cobleigh, oncologist at Rush- Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. ANI
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