Affections of the Eyes

Affections of the Eyes

Those defects of vision, usually functional, called “errors of refraction” — short sight, long sight, etc. — due to inability of the eye as a whole to accommodate itself to the instinctive physiological act of seeing, are discussed in Volume I of this series. At this place we shall confine ourselves to a consideration of pathology of the structures of the eyes.
It is desirable to impress upon the reader the fact that the eyes are integral parts of the body and not, as commonly implied, independent isonomies without vital connection with the rest of the body, and share in any deterioration of the general integrity. Not to the eye itself, but the general state of the body — to enervation and toxemia — must we look for the cause of pathological states of the structures of the eyes.

Definition: This is partial or complete inability to see. This inability to see constitutes the characteristic symptom. Various structural changes in the eyes are often apparent.

Etiology: Immediately, blindness results from changes in the eye: its lens, retina, or other parts that prevent vision. Cataract, destruction of the cornea, optic atrophy, glaucoma, tumor, brain pathology, etc., are the usual causes. These pathologies depend upon the general causes of pathology in the body. Temporary blindness may be seen in shock, hysteria, optic neuritis, etc., that may be quickly recovered from.

Prognosis: In all save cases of temporary functional blindness the outlook is not favorable. Only an occasional case may recover vision.

Care of the Patient: All causes of ill-health must be removed and the general health built up. A few cases of blindness of long standing have recovered good sight during a long fast.



Definition: This is an opacity of the lens of the eye. Several forms are described.

Symptoms: The cataract cannot be seen except with the ophthalmoscope. It commonly begins at the outer border of the lens and slowly creeps over the whole lens resulting in gradually failing vision of the affected eye. The pupil gradually changes to a white or grayish color. The development may progress for years and both eyes are generally involved though it commonly begins in one eye. Blindness always results if the condition is allowed to persist.

Etiology: The “authorities” seem to be unable to agree on its cause. It rarely develops in children and is most common after fifty. It sometimes develops as a complication of diabetes. Eye strain is often said to predispose. It is our opinion, that it is the result of toxemia. In the cases we have handled there has been history of long-standing indigestion with much poisoning from the digestive tract.

Prognosis: In early cases this is good. In advanced cases where blindness exists it is not favorable. We had one case of blindness of one eye to recover so completely during a fast of eighteen days, that the patient was able to read a newspaper with the unaided eyes. The knife offers, perhaps, the only hope in advanced cases.

Care of the Patient: The elimination of toxemia is vital. To this end a long fast is essential. All causes of enervation must be corrected and feeding must be of a nature to assure good digestion. Sun-light, carefully used, as described in Volume I of this series, has proven helpful. It is claimed by the followers of Bates that palming and other measures to improve vision help to remove cataract.




Definition: This is congestion of the delicate membrane which lines the lids and covers the eyeballs.

Symptoms: Redness (“blood-shot”) of the eyeballs and lids, smarting or burning, blurred vision, and a mattery discharge are the chief symptoms. There may be a flow of tears.

Etiology: It often results from exposure of the eyes to smoke or strong winds or other locally irritating influence. It is seen after dissipation or much drinking of alcohol. It is almost always present in measles, scarlet fever and small pox. It is, except where due to local irritation, an expression of systemic toxemia.

Prognosis: This is good.

Care of the Patient: The eyes should be kept clean by thorough washing with warm water. They should be allowed to rest. Other than this, hygienic measures for cleansing the body — fasting, followed by a natural diet — is all that is required.




Definition: Commonly called “sore eyes,” this is a catarrhal inflammation of the lining membranes of the lids and the globe of the eyes. It may be either acute or chronic.

Symptoms: It begins with dryness and smarting of the eyes, as though there is something in the eyes. Swelling of the lids follows and then there comes an abundant secretion of water, then mucus, and lastly, muco-pus. Feeding and drugging increase the suffering and prolong the trouble.

Etiology: Enervation and toxemia build a catarrhal state of the body which finally involves the mucous surfaces of the eyes. Excesses of sugar, syrup, candy, bread, cereal, etc., are the chief causes of this catarrhal condition, which frequently becomes chronic, due to chronic provocation.

Care of the Patient: Stop all food until the inflammation subsides. Keep the eyes cleansed with warm water; use no salt, soap, boric acid, or other antiseptic. After the inflammation has subsided, put the child on a fruit diet until all symptoms of the trouble have cleared up. Feed properly thereafter.
Chronic conjunctivitis should be cared for in much the same manner, but it will usually require longer time. Repeated short fasts with a rigid diet between these will finally remedy the trouble.




Definition: This is the dread trachoma of which we hear so much as an affliction of the Indians. It is an aggravated form of the simple catarrhal conjunctivitis previously described. It is also called granulated lids.

Symptoms: Severe inflammation of the membrane of the eyes, which is covered with numerous nodules, is the principal characteristic. The inner surface of the lids often become thickened and rough (perhaps as much from the abusive treatment commonly employed, as from anything) like sandpaper, and, by constant friction, Impairs the transparency of the cornea, often leading to blindness. The above symptoms are merely added to those described under catarrhal conjunctivitis.

Etiology: It is said to be very contagious; but this belongs with other myths, like werewolves, hobgoblins and mad dogs. It is the result of toxemia complicated with sepsis from the intestines. Among the Indians it develops only in those who live on white bread, molasses, salt bacon, coffee and firewater with a lack of fruits and vegetables in their diet.

Care of the Patient: Rest and strict cleanliness of the eyes are of greatest importance. Warm water is sufficient for cleanliness. Antiseptic solutions do more harm than good. A fast of sufficient duration to end the inflammation and free the body of toxins is very essential. Careful feeding to avoid indigestion, with an abundance of fruits and vegetables and general or constitutional health measures, are essential.




Definition: This is a purulent conjunctivitis of the new-born; ophthalmia neonatorum.

Symptoms: The symptoms are usually less violent and progress less rapidly than in purulent ophthalmia of adults. A few days (two to five), or a week, after birth the eyelids become slightly red and swollen, with a purulent secretion. The swelling of the eyelids increases, the conjunctiva becomes greatly infiltrated, swollen, and roughened, the secretion becomes thickened and of a yellow or green color. The “disease” is self-limited and runs its acute course in four to six days, after which time there is a longer period of mild trouble.
The cornea soon becomes affected. If the affection of the cornea should result in a scar over the pupil, blindness may result. Even if it is but a small scar there may be a serious impairment of sight.

Etiology: Purulent conjunctivitis is the result of septic infection of the eyes at birth. It is caused by the eyes of the child coming in contact with the “diseased” vaginal secretion of the mother as the child is passing out of the mother’s body. Its symptoms are less violent than purulent conjunctivitis of adults and the consequences are less severe.
Gonorrhea and purulent endometritis (inflammation of the lining of the womb) are considered the chief sources of infection. Someday it will be recognized that a leucorrhea which does not drain well, or which is bound on the mother by pads, will generate enough putrescence to infect the eye or eyes of the infant. Indeed, Gould and Pyle say: “severe cases have been caused by the secretions of non-specific vaginitis.” A clean mother cannot infect her child. An unclean mother, who thoroughly douches her vagina immediately before or during, labor greatly reduces the likelihood of infection.
The present-day practice of physicians and nurses of rupturing the “bag-of-water,” as soon as the os uteri is distended, robs the child of part of its natural insulation during passage and, undoubtedly, increases the likelihood of infection. Dry births act in a similar manner.
Tilden says: “The average mother thinks she must eat for two during her gestation period. This unnecessary stuffing enervates her nervous system, causing defective elimination, and a pronounced state of autotoxemia. Her secretions are excessive and abnormal in quality. These mothers have a very acid leucorrhea, which, if it finds its way into the child’s eyes, will cause inflammation, then add to this misfortune careless or unskilled nursing and heroic medication and we have a combination of causes that will probably end in blindness.”

Complications and Sequelae: Blenorrhea (a purulent discharge from the eyes) and blindness are the chief complications. Blenorrhea is a common aftermath of medically treated cases. The danger of blindness is reduced to almost nil by proper care from the start. Dr. Trall says: “the common lotions and potions, washes and swashes, are very apt to aggravate the disorder, deform the eyelids, or destroy the sight.”

Prognosis: Proper care from the outset will result in speedy recovery in all cases.

Prevention: Health, cleanliness — these two words sum up the whole of the work of preventing the condition. The pregnant mother should give more attention to her own health and cleanliness than most of them are willing to devote to these. A clean, healthy mother cannot possibly infect her child. We are frequently told that if we give prospective mothers the necessary knowledge, their mother instincts will prompt, them to live, eat and care for themselves in a way to insure the highest welfare of their unborn child. This is only partially true. A woman does not lose her love of pleasure, indulgence and indolence and greatly add to her self-control when she becomes pregnant. She is still inclined to follow lines of least resistance.
Cleanliness of the child’s eyes is important. It is unfortunate that mothers and nurses do not know how to thoroughly and properly cleanse a child’s eyes. The poor job that most of them do is lamentable. Nurses are trained to sterilize and not to cleanse the eyes. Tilden declares that: “If the eyes are kept clean — not pretty nearly clean — there will be no excuse for carrying out the medical superstition of medicating the eyes of every new born infant with argyrol, to prevent the possibility of ophthalmia neonatorum — gonorrheal inflammation of the eyes — developing; a sort of left-handed compliment that all mothers have gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a disease of filth, and will end when the human family learns the art of keeping clean (not near clean).”
He says: “In these days of much medical delusion we hear that children should have a weak solution of nitrate of silver dropped into their eyes as soon as they are born, to prevent ophthalmia neonatorum — a venereal inflammation of the eyes of newborn babies. Doctors who gain their experience from free clinics, hospitals, and slum practice become deluded with the idea that all mankind are tainted with venereal diseases. Their delusion should not be taken seriously.
“There may be a little danger of this infection in the slums, but the danger is nil among the representative, better class of poor as well as among the well-to-do of this country.”
The eyes should be carefully cleansed with warm, water, using pledgets of absorbent cotton instead of the usual wash-cloth. Eyes, mouth, anus and genitalia should not be washed with a cloth; for, the secretions and excretions from the eyes, nose and mouth of infants should be removed with absorbent cotton and not with the handkerchief. Parents should learn to cleanse the eyes of a child and not trust a careless or inefficient nurse.
There should never he any trouble with the eyes of infants except for the careless use of wash-cloths by mothers and nurses. Tilden says: “Few if any mothers know how thoroughly to wash a child. When they learn how, there will be fewer blind, deaf, and catarrhal. Skin diseases will disappear if personal liberty ceases to be abrogated by manufacturers of vaccine and serum through their henchmen, the vaccinators, and such diseases as infantile paralysis, meningitis, epilepsy, and rheumatism will be heard of no more.” Again, “Cleanliness is more far-reaching than prayer under such circumstances.” The mother who will neglect her child in every way except prayer will probably send her child to heaven very early.”

Care of the Patient: Prompt and persistent action is necessary in order to prevent infection or possible ulceration of the eyes. Cleanliness is the great desideratum. The swelling of the eyelids closes the eyes, the secretion glues the lids together and drainage is prevented. Herein is the real element of danger.
The eye lids must be opened and the eyes thoroughly and completely cleansed every two hours, day and night. The discharge must not be permitted to become pent-up and septic. Drainage is absolutely essential if the eyes are to be saved.
The application of ice to the inflamed lids and eyes has the following distinct disadvantages: It suppresses the inflammatory process, reduces the number of white corpuscles, devitalizes the tissues, reduces resistance to infection and perhaps, also, impairs the antiseptic secretions. The application of the ice pack, by suppressing the inflammation reestablishes drainage and makes it easy to cleanse the eyes. As drainage and cleanliness are the factors most needed, this constitutes a distinct benefit.
In each case, therefore, the practitioner must carefully weigh the disadvantages and the advantages of the ice pack and decide the procedure in each case individually. Where the inflammation is not great enough to materially interfere with drainage, the ice pack should certainly be avoided. Where drainage is absent, the ice pack becomes the lesser of two evils and should be chosen. It should be understood, however, as suppression and the after-care carefully, provided for.
Thin pledgets of cotton are placed over the eyes (over the affected eye if only one is infected) and so arranged that no weight rests on the eye. Small pieces of ice are placed on the cotton and renewed when necessary. This should not be carried further than is essential to insure drainage and perfect cleanliness.
Dr. Trall said: “the eyes should be bathed several times a day in moderately tepid water at first, and finally as cold as may be found consistent with comfortable sensations after the application.”
Thorough washing with plain warm water is enough. Trall and others who lived before the germ theory produced the present insanity, cleansed the eyes of these cases with plain water and enjoyed a remarkable success. The water did not injure the eyes, while, unlike the present antiseptic practice, germs never become adapted to cleanliness as they do to antiseptics: I say germs, because I find doctors of all schools accepting the germ theory and living in constant dread of their activities.
Tilden wrote: “The vandalism practiced on the human eye forty to fifty years ago by oculists in their use of nitrate of silver to control ophthalmic diseases was appalling. ‘I have seen the sclerotic coat of the eye indelibly colored from the use of this drug, and near-blindness to total blindness brought on from scar tissue caused by its cauterizing effects.” — Stuffed Club, May 1912.
Cleanliness is the great need. The secretions must not be permitted to become pent-up and force absorption after they have become septic. An aseptic condition must be maintained, as far as possible, until recovery is complete. This is all there is to be done. Nature alone does the healing. Vigilance should not be relaxed at any time. Where but one eye of the child is affected every precaution should be used to prevent the infection from reaching the other eye, and to prevent it from reaching the nose and mouth. The child’s hands must not be permitted to rub its eyes and then be carried to its mouth.
Attendants should use every precaution not to infect their own eyes, or the eyes of others. Strict cleanliness on their own account should be the rule.




Definition: This is a tearing away of the eyeball from the retina.

Symptoms: The condition can be diagnosed only by means of the opthalmoscope. It may be preceded by years of near-sightedness. It always makes near-sightedness worse and eventually results in blindness.

Etiology: The most plausible theory of cause is that the stretching of the eyeball, produced by an excessive accumulation of fluid in the eye, detaches the retina. The overstretching of the membranes under the force of the increased fluid-pressure results in weakening and wasting of these membranes. Toxemia and malnutrition are back of the increased intra-ocular fluid. Detachment of the retina often follows operative removal of cataract.

Care of the Patient: The condition should be prevented by proper living. Perhaps little can be done after the retina has become detached.




Eye-strain causes headache! We know that many thousands have been fitted with glasses to cure them of headaches and many of them find comfort so long as they wear the glasses. They find that their headache returns when they lay their glasses aside. Such a remedy is mere, palliation and does not touch the real cause of the headache.
Too much attention is given to supposed defective anatomism in dealing with the eyes and not enough to the causes of impaired function. The animal (human) body physiologically adjusts itself to all kinds of anatomical deformities and, when in full health, does this with little or no strain.
Enervation, toxemia and perverted metabolism are the causes of the discomforts credited to eye-strain. In caring for “eye-strain” it is significant that when toxemia is removed, the headache is gone. Correct the habits of life which derange metabolism, discard eye-glasses, and there will not be much eye-strain left.




Definition: An excessive pressure within the eye causing hardness of the eyes and blindness. One or both eyes may be affected.

Symptoms: This condition may be preceded by weeks or months of pain in the eyeballs, especially early in the morning. One of the first symptoms of the early stage of the condition is the appearance of halos or colored rings around distant objects, when seen at night. The iris is usually pushed forward, there is constant pain in the brow, the temple, the cheek or other parts near the eye and the eyeball becomes hard to the touch instead of soft, and resilient, as in the normal state. Vision is gradually impaired and ultimate blindness ensues if the condition is not corrected.

Etiology: The hardness of the eyeball, pain and impaired vision result from the presence of an excess of fluid In the eye, either from an excess secretion or from obstructed drainage. While eye-strain and poor lighting are given as causes, the basic cause of glaucoma goes back much deeper than this. It grows out of a highly toxic condition of the body. Accumulation of excess fluid in the eyes has the same cause as similar accumulations in other organs and tissues of the body.

Prognosis: This is good in the early stages but if proper care is neglected constant pressure on the retina results in atrophy and blindness.

Care of the Patient: It is necessary to say that advanced cases may be beyond recovery, but in early stages the condition should respond readily to hygienic care. Indeed the only failure we have to record was in that of an advanced case that had an operation for the condition before coming to us.
Nothing is more immediately effective in these cases than fasting. We have seen normal vision restored in two to three weeks in cases that were practically blind. Fasting not only helps to remove the underlying toxic condition, but it speeds up the absorption of the fluid in the eye.
Rest and good general hygiene should accompany the fast. After the fast, a diet of fruits and vegetables should be followed long enough for the restoration of full health.
Even in hopeless cases the above program may be used to build up the general health and prevent further damage.




Definition: Inflammation of the iris or colored portion of the eye.

Symptoms: Iritis is a very painful affection accompanied by redness of the eye, severe headaches and often some fever. The pain is often intense. Light striking the inflamed eye causes great suffering, causing a dread of light.

Etiology: It grows out of a general toxic state.

Prognosis: Under regular care, with its suppressive treatment and its ignoring of cause, the condition sometimes lasts for months and sometimes leaves behind permanent damage to sight. Indeed, neglect of the condition may result in total blindness.

Care of the Patient: Fasting and rest are the essential measures for elimination of the underlying toxemia. The eyes are very sensitive to light and should be protected from this so long as there is inflammation. They should be cleansed three or four times daily with warm water.




Definition: Inflammation of the cornea. Several forms are described depending on whether blebs, pustules or papules form on the cornea, or whether the whole cornea is involved, or whether there is pus, hardening or trachoma, or whether it follows injury or follows inflammation of the trifacial nerve.

Symptoms: Redness (“blood-shot”) of the white portion of the eye, tearing, pain, sensitiveness to light, often purulent discharge from the eyes, are the chief symptoms. Vision may and may not be blurred. The external transparent membrane becomes slightly cloudy. Grave danger to vision exists if the discharge becomes purulent.

Etiology: This condition grows out of a highly toxic state of the body. Eye-strain and injury are predisposing factors.

Care of the Patient: Care for as directed under iritis.




Definition: This is atrophy or wasting of the optic nerve.

Symptoms: Optic atrophy can be diagnosed only by the aid of the ophthalmoscope. It is not always preceded by pain in the eye. There is a gradual failing of vision with ultimate complete blindness.

Etiology: So-called primary optic atrophy is seen in locomotor ataxia and paretic dementia. Secondary atrophy results from pressure of tumors, aneurysms, etc., on the optic chasm. What is called consecutive atrophy is a sequel of optic neuritis. Primary and consecutive neuritis are due to the usual causes of nervous degeneration. Quinine and arsenic are potent causes of optic atrophy and blindness.

Care of the Patient: Nothing can be done for advanced atrophy. The process may be arrested in its early stages if proper measures are employed. The use of quinine and arsenic must be discontinued and all stimulants must be given up. Fasting is essential to eliminate toxemia and rest will be necessary to restoration of nerve energy. All abuse of the eyes must be discontinued. Glasses and local treatment will not help.




Definition: This is inflammation of the intra-ocular (within the eye) end of the optic nerve. If it is accompanied with marked swelling the term “choked disk” is employed to designate it.

Symptoms: Severe pain in the eye, which radiates up through the forehead and often even down to the back side, accompanied by more or less swelling, are the characteristic symptoms.

Etiology: It is due to the usual causes of neuritis — pressure, toxemia, and poisoning (lead and alcohol). It is seen in tumor of the brain, nephritis, anemia, cerebral meningitis and in “infectious fevers.”

Care of the Patient: See Neuritis.




Definition: Inflammation of the retina.
Retinitis is a neuritis and presents about the same symptoms as optic neuritis. Its causes are the same. The care of the patient should be the same as that given for neuritis.




Definition: This is a hardening of the retina with pigmentation and atrophy.

Symptoms: Gradually failing sight may be the only symptom. It is considered a hopelessly blinding affection and accounts for thousands of cases of blindness yearly. It can be diagnosed only by means of the ophthalmoscope.

Etiology: It is due to the usual causes of sclerosis of tissue — toxemia, intoxication, and drug poisoning. Abuse of the visual function may predispose. A theory has recently arisen that it is caused by a lack of carotene in the diet.

Care of the Patient: This must be constitutional. A fast followed by a diet of fruits and vegetables are essential. Local care is of no value.




Definition: This is a small, painful pimple or boil on the eyelid, or inflammation of the connective tissue of the lid near a hair follicle.

Etiology: It grows out of the local and systemic conditions which cause boils, which see.

Care of the Patient: They heal in three or four days without attention. Sometimes several develop in succession. General hygienic care of the body soon puts an end to them.




This is a trembling motion of the eyelids often seen in children afflicted with conjunctivitis. The trembling is of nervous origin and often becomes spasmodic. Its causes are systemic and it disappears when the general health is improved.




Ulcers often appear upon the cornea and cause considerable suffering. Like ulcers elsewhere in the body they follow inflammation and are due to toxemia and septic absorption. These should be cared for as directed under iritis. Cleanliness is doubly important.