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Eye Exercises for Astigmatism: Do They Work?

By Marta Manning
Advertisements market eye exercises as a tool for improving vision, but are they really effective? Learn why eye exercises are not advisable for treating astigmatism.

You may have heard about eye exercise programs that claim to treat astigmatism. These programs market themselves as an alternative way to treat astigmatism with eye muscle exercises. But do they really work? Some experts don’t believe so. 

If you have astigmatism, either your lens or your cornea has a different degree of curvature than it would in a healthy eye. “Basically, it means that your eye or cornea is shaped more like a football than a basketball  — that the measurement in the vertical is steeper than the horizontal or vice versa,” Yuna Rapoport, MD, an ophthalmologist at Manhattan Eye tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

When lens or cornea curvature is irregular instead of smooth, light rays can’t bend properly and your vision becomes distorted. You may also have astigmatism at the same time as other vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Can Eye Exercises Really Help Astigmatism?

Eye exercises, also known as vision training or natural vision therapy, have been popular since the 1900s when William Horatio Bates pioneered the Bates Method of blinking and focusing eye movements aimed at correcting vision. Modern variations of the method include eye massages and even eye yoga. More recently, smartphone apps claiming to use vision training to eliminate the need for glasses became available to the public.

Despite their popularity, there is no scientific evidence that eye exercises can fix astigmatism, farsightedness, or nearsightedness, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Although vision training movements can help with other eye conditions like crossed eyes or double vision, they cannot repair the structural defects in the lens or cornea associated with astigmatism.

“Eye exercises cannot help with astigmatism,” Rapoport says. “You cannot change the curvature of your eye with eye exercises. Astigmatism is not a medical condition, just a measure of your eye curvature and a number on your prescription. Therefore, it does not necessarily need to be treated, just the vision corrected with glasses, contacts, or laser vision correction,” Rapoport explains. 

Your ophthalmologist can help you evaluate your long-term vision correction options, which may include surgical procedures like LASIK. Talk to your doctor to see how you can achieve long-term clear vision

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