Myopia (Nearsightedness) and Eye Exercises
by Dr. Merrill J. Allen, Dr. Steven M. Beresford, Dr. Francis A. Young.
WHAT REALLY CAUSES MYOPIA
In myopia (nearsightedness), light from distant objects is focused in front of the retina – usually because of an eyeball that is too long, and/or a cornea that is too curved, and/or an inner lens that is too thick or not focusing properly. Myopes can see near objects clearly but distant objects are blurred. In extreme cases of myopia, objects can be seen clearly only if they are really close to the eyes.
Although traditional eye care is based on the unproven theory that myopia is inherited, fewer than 2% of children have deformed eyeballs. The reason why almost everyone is born with normal healthy eyes is because our ancestors were hunters and warriors whose survival depended on really good vision. People with poor vision were killed by enemies and predators, so their myopia genes died with them. The fact that humans survived means that we too are genetically programmed for good vision.
Research has shown that the major cause of myopia is mass education, TV, and computers, which force people to focus on close objects for long periods of time. This is opposite to the way nature intended and can impose a tremendous amount of nearpoint stress on the eyes. This affects the focusing muscles and can make the eyeball go out of shape. Poor nutrition and genetics can be a factor in some cases.
Dramatic proof that myopia is usually not inherited came from a 1968 investigation by Dr. Frances Young, who led a research team to Alaska to study Eskimo families that were being assimilated into the modern American lifestyle. This provided a unique opportunity to test the genetic theory because the parents were illiterate whereas their children were the first generation to go through school. According to the genetic theory, the parents and the children should have almost identical visual systems with little or no myopia.
What Dr. Young discovered stunned the eye care profession. Only 2 out of 130 parents were myopic and the amount of myopia was very small. This was expected because they were living the traditional Eskimo lifestyle of hunting and fishing. In contrast, more than 60% of the children had measurable amounts of myopia! The children obviously didn't inherit the myopia so Dr. Young concluded that the myopia was caused by long periods of reading as the children went through school.
Since the Alaskan Eskimo research, a lot more evidence has been gained and it is now known that most cases of myopia are simply the result of long periods of reading, watching TV, or working at a computer, which causes the eyes to adapt to the close-up focusing. In recognition of his breakthrough, the American Optometric Association awarded Dr. Young the prestigious Apollo Award, which is the highest honor in the entire optometric profession.
The National Eye Institute is the government agency that funds almost all eye research in the USA , mostly through research grants to colleges. A few years ago, the National Eye Institute issued a major report known as “Vision Research, A National Plan (1999 – 2003)”, which stated:
“ Reading is the most established risk factor for myopia. More recent observations have strengthened the association of the amount of near work with the rate of myopic progression. It is significant that myopic children have poorer accommodation (focusing power) than others.”
“Researchers have also long suspected that genetic factors play a role in the cause of myopia. The evidence is particularly strong in the case of pathological myopia (myopia of high degree). Recent studies of the eye in infancy have also shown that the seeds of myopia may appear early in development.”
The report goes on to say:
“Many patients are convinced that their myopic progression was slowed or reversed by various forms of vision training (eye exercises).”
The National Eye Institute thus confirms the position that the American Vision Institute has held since it was founded in 1979. Reading is the major cause of myopia; if you weren’t myopic as a child, your myopia probably isn’t inherited; many people report that eye exercises are effective against myopia.
But, you may ask: “If my parents are myopic and I’m myopic too, doesn’t that mean that my myopia is inherited?” The answer is probably not. In most cases where myopia runs in families, everyone in the family does a lot of reading or close work. The reading and close work are the common factors causing the myopia, not genetics. Dr. Young explains:
“Just because parents and children speak the same language doesn’t mean that language is inherited. The transmission of language is a result of the fact that parents and children share the same culture. Likewise, myopia usually results from the fact that when parents like to read, they share their culture by encouraging their children to read too. Our research clearly shows that reading and close work are the dominant factors in most cases of myopia.”
The National Eye Institute echoes Dr. Young’s conclusions:
“One of the weaknesses of family studies is that it is difficult to separate out the contribution of genes in families to that of a shared environment. Do parents pass on to their children myopic genes or a love of reading?”
The traditional method of treating myopia is with corrective lenses to bring distant objects into focus. The problem arises when corrective lenses are worn for reading, which creates a vicious cycle by causing more nearpoint stress, which causes more myopia, which causes stronger lenses, which causes more nearpoint stress. What basically happens is that the corrective lenses treat the symptoms (the blurred vision) but aggravate the underlying cause (the nearpoint stress).
In a series of recent experiments, Dr. Earl Smith of the University of Houston College of Optometry fitted various types of corrective lenses on monkeys with normal vision. What he found was that monkeys fitted with the type of corrective lenses used for nearsightedness adapted to the lenses and became nearsighted.
The implications of this research are of concern because the visual systems of monkeys and humans are almost identical. What it means is that there is good scientific evidence that the traditional method of prescribing corrective lenses may aggravate or even cause myopia.
VISION THERAPY EYE EXERCISES AND MYOPIA
By now, it will be obvious that any truly successful treatment of myopia must include a method of reducing and managing nearpoint stress. The most important thing is not to wear distance glasses for reading, because these usually increase nearpoint stress and make the myopia worse. Here are some other recommendations:
A) Low Myopia. If you’re just starting to develop myopia, it may be possible to return to normal or near-normal vision quite easily. We suggest you don’t wear corrective lenses or wear them as little as possible, provided its safe to do so. Instead, you should strengthen your eyes and increase your natural focusing power with vision therapy eye exercises.
B) Medium to High Myopia . We suggest you strengthen your eyes and increase your natural focusing power with vision therapy eye exercises. Many people improve their vision and wear weaker glasses – usually old glasses from previous years – which they only need for certain activities such as driving and movies. The rest of the time they are free of glasses. The Power Vision Program gives you complete instructions how to maximize your results.
Of course, the amount of improvement varies from person to person but the important thing is that your vision will get better instead of steadily getting worse. And when you feel the new power in your eyes and see your world becoming clearer, you’ll never want to go back to the tired, old, vicious cycle of weaker eyes and stronger prescriptions!