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stinging
#1
Many times over the years people have discussed a stinging sensation when they get a moment of clearer vision. The sensation seems to originate from somewhere in or on the eye.

It has been interpreted as dry eyes, but I don't think the sensation with this and dry eyes is the same, and it can last through blinking. If you cup your eyes to darkness as in palming, but without closing your eyes, and the sensation disappears, this would suggest that it is related to a consequence of the light entering your eyes.

The last few months I've spent a little bit of time exploring the idea that this stinging sensation is originating from retinal nerves or the optic nerve itself, the idea being that something is "waking up" as a result of a moment of intense improved visual processing that is perhaps involving the nerves or brain more consistently and fully. But I can't find any scientific description or discussion to support this idea. Really the only thing I can find with internet searches is when your limb "falls asleep" as a result of pinching a proximal nerve or artery, and when the pressure is released there's a tingling pain, as described at this link physiologically.

Why do limbs fall asleep
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/23305">http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/23305</a><!-- m -->

One difference is that nerve in or from the eye would have to be asleep a great long time, in contrast to your hand falling asleep when you lay on your arm for merely a few minutes. Imagine the long term consequences of your hand being asleep for years. But the idea is in line with the theory I have adopted that blurry vision is related to the partial disengagement of the visual cortex, like a car putting around firing on two cylinders instead of four.

Another difference is the localized stinging from the eye contrasted with the scrambled tingling when your hand wakes up. This could be explained by the idea that in the eye it is only a single nerve that is waking up, or a small number anyway.

The problem I'm having with this idea is when your hand falls asleep it's a simple matter of discontinuing the pressure pinching your nerve and/or artery. The article above is vague on what role an artery or nerve plays in this occurrence. With the eye I would have to work under the idea that it is a shift in the manner of handling visual information through the nervous system that is leading to the nerves waking up.

Anyway, I'm still looking into it.
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"Half of our funny, heathen lives, we are bent double to gather things we have tossed away." - George Meredith
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#2
Yeah! Now we get some more scientifically detailed (soon anyway) reasoning for this! Thanks!
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#3
David, I look forward to your further findings on this subject. At first I thought the stinging was mechanical, like stretching to loosen a tight muscle, then moved to the belief that it had to do with being able to let in more light, since it does feel like my eyes are more wide open and the sensation is on the front, so maybe more photons touching my eyeball. It also feels like it might be a slight stretching of the surface of my eyeball, maybe smoothing out any astigmatic irregularities. Thanks for the mention of the nervous system as of course this is how we feel or imagine pain and also clearer sight. I'm wondering now about mis-interpretation of nerve impulses, "tasting" the apple in the elementary school experiment when you're blindfolded and fed a piece of raw potato. I've known for a long time that part of my vision improvement is to interpret the visual signals correctly and not blur them. Of course the problem is that my habits of looking are what I'm used to, and it's not always obvious to me I need to do something different, or if it is, what to do. Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, and keep up the great work.
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#4
Hi David

Interesting. I'd never thought of connecting it to the feeling you get in your hand etc after a nerve, or nerves, have gone to sleep but it seems obvious now you mention it.

I still get this, but not as much as I used to. Sometimes I just have to blink hard just to ease the sensation as it can ben nearly overpowering (I distinguish this from the temptation to blink hard as a result of the discomfort, of another more mental kind, that comes with clearer vision, often at the same time as the tingling). Like Nancy I feel it right on the front of my eyes, over the front of the pupil. The tingling ias always accompanied, as you say, by a greater sensation of intensity as the clarity returns and the visual system kicks in properly.

I think people getting their first clear flash(es) might react to this tingling by stopping what they've been doing. Perhaps, like me, they may have been led to believe that returning clarity is a smooth, gentle sensation.

This used to be accompanied by watering and manically rapid blinking, like a fly caught against a window pane. I could feel all that built up tension coming out.
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#5
I think with any theories it is important to remember that this sensation occurs both with eyes open, and with them closed. Light sensitivity, might have something, but I don't think it account for 5 minutes into a palming session, the stinging sensation occurring, and you haven't either opened your eyes, or removed your hands.
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#6
FIAT2LUX Wrote:I think with any theories it is important to remember that this sensation occurs both with eyes open, and with them closed. Light sensitivity, might have something, but I don't think it account for 5 minutes into a palming session, the stinging sensation occurring, and you haven't either opened your eyes, or removed your hands.

Yes, if that happens it's worth noting. Has anyone else experienced this?
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"Half of our funny, heathen lives, we are bent double to gather things we have tossed away." - George Meredith
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#7
This is an area that can get fairly heavy, as it touches upon the neurology of the visual system. I think everyone has touched upon some excellent ideas as to the nature of the common stinging sensation. Fwiw, my two cents on this: in my estimation, as I've mentioned in previous posts, the primary innervation for these sensations is the nerves of the cornea. The cornea is more densely packed with nerve endings than any other part of the body, and can be, therefore, the most powerful pain generator as well. I experienced that several years ago when I poked myself in the eye on a stick. I literally fell to the ground in pain, even though it was only a moderate abrasion to the cornea. Afterwards, for days, it felt like knives being driven into it, with the slightest movement of the eye (I had it patched by an ophthalmologist). Moving my good eye caused the injured one to move, so I could only look straight ahead. Will never forget that experience, and I think to this day I'm overly sensitive due to the memory of it.

David Wrote:The last few months I've spent a little bit of time exploring the idea that this stinging sensation is originating from retinal nerves or the optic nerve itself, the idea being that something is "waking up" as a result of a moment of intense improved visual processing that is perhaps involving the nerves or brain more consistently and fully

The optic nerve only transmits optic signals, so I'm not sure how it would transmit sensory/pain signals. The signals of pain from the cornea transmit through the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve). This is also the nerve that transmits signals to our facial muscles, and upper eyelid. The retina doesn't contain sensory nerves either - detachment of the retina, while NOT a pleasant experience, is painless.

I'm somewhat in alignment with the nerves-falling-asleep analogy. More specifically, I would say that the corneal nerves have gone through a long and slow process of sensory adaptation, as the structure of the eye has adopted a more elongated shape, as opposed to it's original flatter shape. Through practice of these methods, we encourage, entice, and trigger the eye to adopt a flatter shape. The pain, I believe, is the response of those nerves, which are quite awake, to the sudden change in that structure. When Bates had people with normal sight deliberately strain, and cause refractive errors, they always felt pain, their eyes smarted, and they didn't want any part of that again. Their flatter shaped structure was being forced to adopt a longer shape, and the nerve endings, especially of the cornea, transmit the signals that something irregular is going on here. Through sensory adaptation, the person with a chronic refractive error has adopted an irregular shape, so what's irregular becomes their new 'regular,' or default shape. Any sudden change to that structure is perceived by the senses as 'wrong,' and the sensory pain signals fire off like fireworks. After a while, though, even that tends to wane, as they adapt back to their original configuration - of a flatter shaped eyeball. Nerves have no innate intelligence, they don't know right from wrong, they just adapt to the situation at hand over time. It's amazing what the human body has and can become adapted to - what would causes one excrutiating pain, the other feels nothing as their nerves and nervous system has adapted to it. The cornea is no different, even though it is the most sensitive tissue in the entire body. When people describe this pain, they always describe it as at the front of the eyeball - as Nancy said - as stretching at the front of the eyeball. I can attest to that as well. It seems to make most sense, to me anyways, that this is revolving around the nerves of the cornea. I also would make sense that, even when covering the eyes, the same sensation can be felt, if one is effecting a change in the structure of the eye while resting them.
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#8
arocarty, thanks for this information and detail which fits with my own experience. About the front of the eye, I just remembered when I'm scanning and shifting over the chart, and get this stinging sensation (which is happening less often), I often get an accompanying brief flash of panic which seems to be associated with a big increase in light. It's like I'd been in a dark closet and someone suddenly opened the door from a brightly lit room. At the same time, I feel like my eyelids are involuntarily peeling back further to expose more of my eyeball, especially at the corners, which scares me -- I can feel the anxiety rising as I just write about this. My guess is that my visual system is learning to let in more light in a natural healthy way, and it's still so different from my usual experience that I'm interpreting it as danger, so I'm working to reframe this.

David, I've never had the stinging sensation when I was palming, only when I was looking at the chart. When I palm my eyes seem to get softer and softer and more liquid the longer I do it. I don't even remember any tiny stings during palming but will pay closer attention now.
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#9
When palming I seem to go through cycles of "normal" pressure, hard pressure, soft pressure, pain, no pain, etc.

The pain I have (think stinging) is usually at the front of the eye, maybe slightly inside it (think ciliary muscle), and sometimes at the sides. Certainly interesting. I've also had clear flashes both with and without the stinging. It's been relatively subtle while palming compared to my first few times with the eyes open where it was REALLY stinging, like I could hardly reopen my eyes after blinking. The eyes were really watery at those two or three times, but even with the tears, they still stung like they had just been wiped dry by a super absorbent paper towel.
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#10
About 3 minutes after my last post I did another palming session.

About 30 seconds in, the stinging started and lasted probably another 5 minutes. It was mild. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being nothing, and 10 being excruciating, it was a 2 or 3, getting up to 4 once or twice. It was mostly my right eye and encompassed the whole front cornea and scleral portions of the eye. It continued a slight amount through to the left eye sclera by the nose, and the right fifth of the cornea of the left eye closest to the nasal cavity.

The sensation seems like it is opening back up something that was previously cordoned. Strain from past trauma being released. The right eye has probably had the most physical trauma of the two eyes. And while I type I had a brief scale 4 sting in the sclera hidden by my bottom eyelid (right eye), accompanied by a slightly more clear view of the keypad.

I posted this here to be more specific on the location of the stinging sensation with regards to the eyeball.
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#11
I guess this would be a good spot to ask about some stinging/palming related problems that I'd like someone else's opinion on.

When I palm at night, I end up getting really tired feeling eyes while palming. Is that normal? Then also, after about fifteen minutes of palming I tend to feel my right hand pinky go to sleep, occassionally my left hand pinky, and sometimes both funny bone areas. I'm usually lying down when I palm. Any ideas to stop my limbs from going to sleep?
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#12
Andrew

Good post. I was a bit premature off the mark. Must be a "David effect" and I'll be more careful in the future. Smile (Though this doesn't necessarily exclude nerves waking up, of course.)

The first time I got a clear flash (and it was sustained perfect vision for a no. of seconds) my eyes had stung and watered profusely (plus crazy blinking as above). My eyes still felt sore the next day, but a kind of surface soreness rather than that dull ache you get from strain. As i mentioned earlier, this made me doubt it was a genuine clear flash (as it had not been accompanied by extreme physical relaxation etc which I'd been led to expect). Instead I felt I'd been through a sandstorm or something the previous day and my eyes were even a bit bloodshot. This seems more than just a sleeping nerve waking up (?)

As you say, when you even get a tiny bit of dust in your eyes it can be very uncomfortable and the sensation lasts for a good while after the speck has been removed.

The general physical sensation you get when you feel this stinging is of your eyes changing shape slightly. Or that's what I always thought, anyway. I remember once after a heavy cold I could feel my sinuses 'clicking' exactly as my eyes relaxed, so there was something definitely physical going on with my eyes which was more than just local to the area of the pupil.

By the way I tried palming when I felt the stinging today and it went away straight away. It returned as soon as I returned to the chart: doing it right (attention - movement - focus) and resisting the temptation to 'look at the bigger picture' which is so ingrained that I barely notice I am doing it, even when I am practicising specifically not to! I never palm and I think this shows me that my eyes don't relax when I do it. Though I'm open to persuasion.
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#13
I forgot to add that I recently realized that you should (I think) resist the temptation to 'follow the sensation', that is, to focus on getting the stinging sensation or whatever other physical indicators you have that tell you that you are relaxing your eyes. This is diverting your attention from looking at the tiny detail you are supposed to be doing. Probably best to just note that it's happening and that you are therefore doing things more or less right.If lakeivan is reading this I'd be interested in his thoughts.
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#14
Back again!

It just struck me after writing my last post (and it may or may not be significant) that if you are focussing on the sensations that accompany vision instead of your main task of searching for detail that you are mixing up your feedback, rather like the case of people who ring up a talk radio programme where the radio operates a time delay of a few seconds so that they can deal with abusive callers. I think what happens is that people ringing in are asked to turn off their radio as they end up getting mixed up if they don't because they are listening to what is being said on their own radio set (which is a few seconds behind real time) rather than to the person at the other end of the phone line. When that happens they are told to switch off their radio.
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#15
Hi Sean,

To ignore or not to ignore - I think it depends on whether it is a painful sensation for the better, or a painful sensation for the worse. It seems we are identifying the experience of both, when there is a significant change from a long held shape (from a flatter, emmetropic shape, or a longer, myopic shape). The severity of sensations can seem to lessen, too, as one migrates into myopia, or out of it.

If it is a painful sensation for the better (evidenced by obviously clearer, more effortless vision), then I would tend to agree that one should focus more on the task of seeing. The feeling of normal sight, is that of not feeling anything - or thinking about the eyes in any way. Other than the feeling of comfortableness, and effortlessness, it's pretty much a void, albeit a pleasant void.

If it's a painful sensation for the worse (evidenced by obvious worse vision and effort), as someone with normal sight would experience, then I think one should probably pay particular attention to the red flag, as the visual system is telling you you're doing something wrong. Ignore it and it might not go away, or, the sensation may go away, but the worse vision may remain.

I seem to be in a place, now, where I feel most of the subtle things I do wrong. An dull ache here or there, or general uncomfortableness. Odd as it may sound, I take this as a good place to be. The visual system is less numb now, and as a result provides more immediate feedback. On the other hand, when it goes from less than perfect to clear, I get no acute, or sharp sensations, other than that of some kind of tightness untightening. Sometimes, just focusing on certain areas helps alleviate it, as Lakeivan has mentioned. When gone, there's nothing left in that area to focus on. It's just, gone.

Regards,

Andrew
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