Natural Vision Correction: Does It Work?

For many people, the idea that you can correct your vision naturally -- without glasses, contact lenses, drugs, or lasers -- is more than a notion. It’s a long-held hope. A lifelong dream.

It’s also a hot topic among eye doctors.

Natural vision correction is the belief that you can improve your vision with eye exercises, relaxation techniques, and an eye massage every now and then. Some people swear by it. Others say it’s nonsense.

There's no proof the technique works, only wishful thinking, says Michael Repka, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology agrees. In a 2013 report, the organization said natural vision correction doesn’t help nearsightedness, farsightedness, or other vision problems caused by disease.

The American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus also found no evidence that vision therapy corrects nearsightedness or keeps it from getting worse. Still, some people insist it does the trick.

Who Might It Help?

Leonard Press is an optometrist  in Fair Lawn, NJ. He practices visual therapy. It’s a kind of physical therapy for your eyes and brain. The goal is to develop, heal, or improve how you see. Vision therapy can help certain conditions other than nearsightednessfarsightedness, and astigmatism.

Experts believe it may fix convergence insufficiency, for instance. That’s when your eyes have a hard time moving together to focus on an object as it comes closer and closer. It can cause eye strain, double vision, and other problems.

But doctors differ on whether visual therapy can fix other eye problems.

Some people have blurry vision because “their focusing system is focusing too hard," Press says. Natural vision exercises that tackle the cause of the problem "can make you less dependent on glasses,” he says, but it helps only a small number of people.

Glasses or No Glasses? The Bottom Line

In 1920, a doctor named William Bates, MD, wrote a book called Perfect Sight Without Glasses. In it, he questioned whether glasses were the only way to fix a person’s vision. He decided they weren’t and created the Bates Method. It’s a way for people to improve their sight without glasses that’s still used today. But not all eye doctors are sold on the idea.

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The question isn’t "Does natural vision correction work?" says Bethesda ophthalmologist Rachel Bishop, MD. She says the real issue is "Why wouldn’t you wear glasses or contacts if they could help you see better right away?"

“For somebody to say, ‘Hmm, I want to put off the need for reading glasses, so I’m just going to strain, and not use reading glasses or distance glasses because I want to train my muscle to be as active as possible ...’ If you have enough bandwidth in your life to not have great vision in the meantime ... you’re not hurting yourself," Bishop says.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on November 17, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Michael Repka, MD, ophthalmologist, professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Visual Training for Refractive Errors CTA - 2013.”

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: “Vision Therapy.“

American Optometric Association: “Definition of Optometric Vision Therapy.“

Leonard Press, OD, optometric director, Vision and Learning Center, Fair Lawn, NJ.

Seeing.org: “Bates Method International.”

Scheiman, M. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, published March 16, 2011.

Rachel J. Bishop, MD, MPH, chief, Consult Services Section, National Eye Institute.

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