Self-help programs of eye exercises that claim to reduce or eliminate your need for glasses and contacts have been around since the 1920s. But before you spend time and money on anything that promises you will be able to “throw away your glasses,” be aware that these programs remain highly controversial and most vision experts contend there is little or no scientific evidence that shows they work.
In fact, several popular eye exercise programs have been removed from the marketplace for making apparently false claims about their effectiveness.
Can Eye Exercises Alter Your Eye’s Basic Anatomy?
To better understand if eye exercises that promise “natural vision improvement” can actually reduce refractive errors, you need to consider the eye’s basic anatomy and how the eye refracts light. Problems with how the eye is shaped typically contribute to focusing errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism.
When the eyeball is too short, you are farsighted and can’t focus on near objects because light rays entering your eye achieve a point of focus somewhere beyond your retina. When you are nearsighted and your eyeball is too long, light rays have too far to go and “fall short” of achieving a point of focus on your retina.
When you have astigmatism, usually your cornea has an irregular shape. Sometimes, astigmatism results when your eye’s natural lens has an irregular shape. These irregularities cause light rays entering your eye to split into different points of focus, creating blurry vision.
Another common vision problem, presbyopia, occurs with aging when your eye’s natural lens starts to lose elasticity and no longer can move properly to accommodate focus at multiple distances. This condition typically causes your near vision to start blurring, beginning at around age 40.
When you “exercise” your eyes, you move your eye muscles to create up-and-down, side-to-side or circular motion. You also “work” the muscles controlling back-and-forth movement of your eye’s natural lens, to help achieve sight at multiple distances.
So if you are considering an eye exercise program to improve your vision, ask yourself these questions:
Will exercising your eyes change the basic shape of your eyeball, by making it longer or shorter? Will eye exercises alter the basic shape of your cornea, and change the angle of how light rays enter your eye to achieve focus? (For example, this is how LASIK works to correct common vision errors.)
If you have astigmatism, will exercising your eyes somehow reshape your eye’s irregular surface? If you have presbyopia, will eye exercises restore your eye’s lens to its once youthful elasticity that has declined due to aging processes?
You possibly can “train” your eyes to see better in different ways, such as in how your brain and your eyes adapt and function. Children with certain early vision problems, such as amblyopia or “lazy eye,” may need a specific type of vision therapy to make sure their eyes work together properly (binocular vision) and that vision is developing normally.
But above all else, eye shape determines your basic refractive error. And if you have a significant problem with the way your eye is shaped, it’s unlikely you will be able to “throw away” your glasses even after a devoted program of eye exercises.
After evaluations of various studies involving programs of eye exercises, biofeedback, muscle relaxation, eye patching and eye massage, officials at the American Academy of Ophthalmology issued this statement in 2004:
“It is not clear if patients purchasing these programs for use at home outside of the controlled environment of a research study will have any improvement in their vision. No evidence was found that visual training has any effect on the progression of myopia. No evidence was found that visual training improves visual function for patients with hyperopia or astigmatism. No evidence was found that visual training improves vision lost through disease processes such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.”
Do Eye Exercises Work?
A long-standing criticism of eye exercises by optometrists and ophthalmologists is the absence of scientific research that demonstrates eye exercises can effectively reduce or eliminate refractive errors and decrease your need for glasses or contact lenses. The medical literature lacks well-controlled clinical studies — with strict scientific criteria including carefully matched comparison populations — showing that eye exercises effectively treat myopia or hyperopia.
Very important: Always make sure you discuss and make decisions about your eye care based upon a formal appointment with your optician.
For more information and to book and eye examination please contact us:
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