The Japanese take their work seriously, and thus most jobs available are “full on”. This means that your working hours and your stress levels are likely to be high, and of course this takes a toll on your body in general and your eyes in particular. Some of the most common eye conditions that you can come down with are also the most embarrassing, namely styes and conjunctivitis (“pink eye”).
A quick definition of a Stye is a small pus-filled eruption that breaks out along or inside the upper or lower eye lids, generally starting with an infection from a hair follicle or an infection of the inside glands of the upper eyelid. Although very uncomfortable, they are as temporary as a pimple and will pass within a week or so. Styes are typically caused by a cross-infection from a cold (the staphylococcus bacteria exist in your sinuses), or from contact with someone else who is infected. Just like colds, doctors don’t really know why some people get more styes than others – but my personal theory is that it has a lot to do with nutrition and your immune system.
Thus, when I feel run down after a particularly trying period at work, not only do I try to get more sleep than usual, but I also take a lot more care about washing my hands and general hygiene, as well as eating right. This of course means plenty of vegetables and fruit, but in winter in particular it also means taking some additional vitamin supplements. One useful antibacterial herb you can buy as a tablet is Echinacea, which is generally good for warding off colds and infections. Other supplements I also take include olive leaf tablets (powerful anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties) and deodorized garlic tablets – or better still the real thing. I’ll note, though, that the tablet form is less likely to cause complaints from your friends and work colleagues the next day.
When coming down with a stye, most people make a beeline for the doctor and come home with a pile of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, which are freely dispensed in Japan. However, I believe that antibiotics and similar drugs should be kept for the really serious problems, and I prefer to try some less aggressive home remedies. For example, you can steep and strain your own Tumeric eye drops, or purchase from overseas some Golden Seal eye drops – something my mother used to use to good effect for us when we were kids. You may find the American herb Golden Seal hard to find in Japan and while there is a Japanese equivalent Shirane Aoi, I don’t know if it has the same medicinal qualities. The best way to get this kind of stuff is to have a friend buy it for you at Puritan’s Pride in the US.
Another very common eye ailment in Japan is conjunctivitis. It’s not uncommon to see young women on the trains self consciously wearing eye patches to hide the condition. Common causes of conjunctivitis include: bacteria, viruses such as chlamydia, allergies such as hay fever and irritation from fumes and smoke, and even contact lens use. Because there are so many possible causes of conjunctivitis, it’s hard to recommend any particular remedy, but it’s good to know that like styes, most cases of pink eye pass quickly. If you can, try to take some time off work and get plenty of rest – in particular give your eyes a rest.
One eye condition that caught my attention in the news just a few weeks ago was that of increasing cases of corneal damage or infection in young women in Japan. Apparently this has been connected to the huge increase in the usage of cheap colored lenses by wearers wanting to tint their iris blue, yellow, or even red. While the effects of colored lenses is suitably surprising, the message from doctors is that the cheaper a lens is, the more likely it is to cause eye damage – sometimes irreparable damage. So, if you feel the need to buy a pair of yellow and black cat eye lenses, stay alert for any possible irritation you might have from them and if so, get them out quickly. Even a day of irritated eyes can result in permanent damage.
Lastly, you’ll notice that Japanese people are particularly fond of using eye drops – including such concoctions as “hard minty” eye drops! I often wonder why it is necessary to use them if you’re healthy and not overdoing the computer usage, but after getting into the habit myself for a couple of years, it is true that the sensation immediately after putting the drops in can be one of intense relief. At the same time, I’ve come to believe that if your eyes are sore or dry enough to need eye drops, then probably you need to think about fixing the cause, not the symptoms. You can’t beat plenty of sleep, cutting down the computer time, good hygiene, and a good diet. Of course, if you can’t avoid smoky bars and offices, or tight work deadlines requiring lots of overtime, then a drop or two of Rohto’s mentholatum eye drops may do the trick...