Natural Vision Correction: Does It Work?
The Search for Scientific Proof
Grossman says he has seen positive results with natural vision correction in patients over the last 31 years. Yet, the American Optometric Association and American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) say there is no scientific evidence that such methods work.
In 2004, the AAO studied whether natural vision care could improve sight. The techniques included eye exercises, massage, muscle relaxation, and nutritional supplements.
Some patients said the techniques helped their nearsightedness (myopia). But when researchers tested the patients' vision, it had not changed. The AAO concluded that patients who reported improved vision may have experienced the "placebo effect:" If you think something will work, you think you see better even if vision has not changed.
In 2007, the AAO also looked at the effect of acupuncture on sight. That study did not find enough evidence to prove that acupuncture helps eye conditions.
"I've seen multiple patients over the years who have been through natural vision correction when they were younger. It did not put off middle-aged vision loss," says Lee Duffner, MD, an ophthalmologist with Eye Surgery Associates in Hollywood, Fla., and a clinical correspondent for the AAO.
Besides hearing from his own patients, Duffner points out that Bates' theory of how the eye works runs contrary to science. "Bates' idea was that the eye focuses due to ocular muscles on the outside of the eye. This is not the accepted method. The lens inside the eye has to change its shape. And the focusing capability of the eye cannot be improved to any meaningful degree," says Duffner.
The Wish for Natural Vision Correction Continues
Why is there still such interest in natural vision correction if there's no evidence that it works? "Many therapeutic methods that have no value have hung around for a long time simply because they didn't hurt anybody," says Duffner. "They may not have been effective, but as long as they didn't cause damage, they were tolerated."
If you want to try natural methods to correct your vision, know that you're going to have to put in consistent effort, and may not have sustained or substantial improvement in vision.
"Most of the time when I see patients I try to talk them out of this type of therapy," says Grossman. "They're going to have to do it for at least 20 minutes a day, four to five times a week to get results. So if you're not willing to do that, don't bother." And even if you do put in the work, the evidence suggests that you will still need glasses.