Eye exercise and other care myths

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Eye Care Myths

By George Nava True II

Pasted from http://www.netasia.net/users/truehealth/Eye%20Care%20Myths.htm, the site of Center for Quack Control, Inc., affiliate of the National Council Against Health Fraud

The eyes may be the mirrors of the soul but they’re also one of the most misunderstood parts of the body. That explains why there are a lot of eye care myths. Too see what I mean, here are some old beliefs you should discard.


Blind Item

Old folks say sleeping with wet hair will make you blind. My mom has been telling me that since I was a kid. In all fairness to her, that can probably happen if you sleep on a bed of nails. Otherwise, there’s no connection between the two according to Dr. Noel Santos, former president of the Samahan ng mga Optometrist sa Pilipinas (SOP). Santos believes this myth was perpetrated by mothers who didn’t want the pillowcase to get wet.


Food for the Eyes?

Some people believe poor eyesight can be corrected by following certain diets or taking vitamin supplements. This is true only if your problem is caused by a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin A, for instance, is needed for night vision. People who lack this vitamin - which is found in dark green leafy and yellow vegetables and fruits - can’t see well in dim light because of night blindness. This is a common problem in developing countries like the Philippines.

But gorging on carrots and other sources of vitamin A won’t spare you the trouble of wearing eyeglasses if you need them later. Rather than help you, too much vitamin A can cause blurred vision, itchy skin, loss of appetite, hair loss, joint pains and irregular menstruation.

"Poor eyesight, which is helped by wearing eyeglasses, has nothing to do with nutrition. If you are short of vitamin A, then carrots would enable you to see better in dim light. If you have enough, more does not help," said Arnold Bender, vice president of the International Union of Food Science and Technology in Health or Hoax?


Anti-Glaucoma Diet?

Glaucoma is another eye disease which some quacks claim can be cured by a special diet. This disorder is characterized by increased pressure in the eyeball and can lead to blindness.

The exact cause of glaucoma is unknown but the acute form is common among the elderly who are farisighted. The condition also appears to run in families. Chronic glaucoma, on the other hand, may result from the use of corticosteroid eyedrops. Other risk factors are eye injuries and diabetes.

To date, no diet has been found to prevent or treat the disease. Following one may prevent you from getting the right treatment and can make things worse.

"Encouraging reports from Nigeria indicate that some glaucoma can be treated with nutritional methods. It is important to understand that most glaucoma in Nigeria and other developing nations is triggered by years of severe malnutrition and malaria. There is no evidence that glaucoma in affluent nations has a nutritional basis, and those afflicted should not be tempted by articles in health food magazines to switch from their eyedrops or pills to nutritional supplements," warned nutritionist Kurt Butler and Dr. Lynn Rayner of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii in The Best Medicine.


Crossed Signals

If you cross your eyes often, will you become cross-eyed? That’s what some people think but the facts say otherwise. Dr. Eugene R. Folk, former codirector of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Clinic at the University of Illinois said children who cross their eyes easily are less likely to have that problem.

Cross-eyes or strabismus is usually congenital (present at birth) or may be due to eye injuries. Either way, the tiny muscles that control eye movement are affected and one of the eyes becomes misaligned.

Contrary to popular belief, children won’t outgrow cross-eyes. The problem has to be corrected by prescription glasses or contact lenses. Eye exercises may help in simple cases but more severe forms require surgery.

If the condition is ignored, the affected eye becomes blind. This is because the nerve connections in that eye won’t develop normally and the brain will ignore images from

that eye. To save the child’s sight, something must be done before he or she is four to six years old.

"If truly crossed and left unattended, one eye will become blind. The images from two normally positioned eyes merge and form in the brain to give you one stereoscopic picture. When the brain is presented with images in different fields, the result is double vision, and one of the images is suppressed. Unless the condition is corrected by special exercises or surgery, that portion of the brain that constantly suppresses an image will in time never be able to represent one properly," said Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital in Symptoms.


Dim Fears

Will reading in dim light harm your eyes? Of course not! This is another myth that refuses to die.

Reading in the dark, in a moving car or in bed won’t damage your eyes. Folk said the worst you can expect is a headache or nausea. This comes from strained muscles which have to work harder since you’re reading in an awkward position.

"People who read in bed generally do so in positions which demand an almost impossible adjustment not from the eye or its lens but from the muscles which govern its movement. When these muscles are strained, they ache just like any other muscles. Sit up straight in bed or in an ordinary chair, and there will be no strain on the muscles and no ache," explained Carol Ann Rinzler in The Dictionary of Medical Folklore.

None of the eye muscles, however, will be damaged that way. So there’s no need to worry that you’ll go blind someday.


TV or Not TV?

How many times has your mother told you not to sit close to the TV set to avoid ruining your eyes? How many times were you told not to watch TV in the dark?

It’s time we put those myths to rest. Dr. Theodore Lawwill of the American Academy of Ophthalmology said TV won’t do any lasting harm to your eyes even if you sit close to it. Kids, he said, like to be as close to the set as possible but nothing bad will come out of this habit. That’s because their eyes can easily focus whether the object is far or two inches or less away from them.

Should you worry if the room is too dark? Not really. On the contrary, people with mild cataracts may even see better in dim light. But this can cause eyestrain. To remedy this, simply adjust the set to get a better picture.

"The contrast between a bright set and a dark room temporarily tires some people’s eyes as does the reflective glare off the screen from a poorly placed lamp, but neither situation will lead to long-term damage," said Deborah Franklin in Health magazine.

"Choose a seat in relation to a movie or television screen at whatever distance is most comfortable to you. As long as you do that, you will not harm your eyes," Rosenfeld added.




Pasted from http://www.netasia.net/users/truehealth/Eye%20Exercises.htm

Can Eye Exercises Improve Vision?

By George Nava True II


In 1891, a prominent New York physician believed he had found a cure for nearsightedness. Instead of prescribing eyeglasses, he advocated the use of eye exercises and taught patients how to do them. That man was Dr. William Horatio Bates and his flawed system is still being used today.

Bates was different from other quacks because he had respectable credentials. He graduated from Cornell University in 1881 and from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1885. Over time, however, he developed wild ideas about vision which he popularized in his book The Cure of Imperfect Eyesight by Treatment Without Glasses published in 1920.

"The book attracted large numbers of charlatans, quacks, and gullible followers who then published scores of unscientific books and articles of their own on the subject of vision. Extolling the Bates System, these authors urged readers to "throw away" their glasses. Some of these writers even established schools," wrote Drs. Russell S. Worrall and Jacob Nevyas in The Eye Exorcisors published in The Health Robbers.

Although Bates acknowledged that eyeglasses made seeing and reading possible, they didn’t cure vision defects and may ruin a person’s eyes in the long run. In a local Eye Exerciser Manual, Bates was quoted as saying:

"Once you begin to wear glasses, the strength of the lenses must be increased periodically (because your eyes are getting weaker). Glasses…act as a crutch and do not treat the cause of poor eyesight."


Roots of Vision Problems

Doctors say most vision problems are caused by the improper bending of light rays by the lens of the eye. The lens normally changes shape to bend light at an angle that will strike the retina and bring objects into focus.

Once the lens loses this ability, refractive errors occur. In nearsightedness, for instance, light rays that enter the eye fall short of the retina, causing the patient to see nearby objects only. In farsightedness, the opposite happens. Light rays go beyond the retina, putting far objects in focus.

However, Bates ignored these facts and pursued his own peculiar notions. He claimed that the lens never changes shape and most eye defects are caused by stress or a "wrong thought" which can tighten eye muscles. To relieve tension and improve vision, he invented a series of eye exercises which he claimed could cure nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, and glaucoma.

He advised patients to cover their eyes with the palms of their hands, to look at different objects continually instead of staring at one thing, and to read under difficult conditions such as in dim light. He also told people to stare directly at the sun to benefit from its warmth.


How Eye Exercises Help

Eye exercises, of course, have their proper place in medicine. In The Well-Informed Patient’s Guide to Cataract and Other Eye Surgery, Dr. Mark Speaker of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Karyn Fieden said these may help those with strabismus or cross-eyes. Dr. Peter Gott writing in Better Health & Diet published by the World Almanac, said exercises may be useful if poor vision is caused by a weakness or imbalance of the eye muscles.

But in most cases, the problem is due to abnormalities of the eye itself. This is comon in eye disorders like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Eye exercises are useless here as well as in glaucoma and cataracts which are not caused by stress but other factors.

"The only thing the exercises can do is delay proper medical or surgical treatment and result in permanent impairment of vision. All reputable eye doctors caution patients against looking directly into the sun. Such a practice can cause permanent damage to the macula, the most sensitive and important area of the retina," Worrall and Nevyas warned.

Bates died in 1931 but his theories flourished. They were promoted by his second wife Emily and Dr. Harold M. Peppard. His book was reissued in 1940 as Better Eyesight Without Glasses and remains in print. Although some of Bates’ blunders were removed from subsequent editions, much of what the book espouses is nonsensical and has long been discredited by doctors.

"’Throw away your glasses!’ became the rallying cry of an international movement in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Thousands of people sincerely believed the Bates exercises had cured them. Unfortunately, medical tests did not bear this out," said Alan M. MacRobert in New Age Hokum published in Not Necessarily the New Age.


Huxley’s Blunder

One of Bates’ most prominent followers was the British novelist Aldous Huxley. Huxley claimed he was helped by Mrs. Margaret Dorst Corbett who operated two schools which taught the Bates System. He even wrote a book titled The Art of Seeing which praised the method. But Huxley later proved to be an embarrassment.

At a Hollywood banquet in which he was the guest speaker, Huxley initially surprised the 1,200 guest that evening when he began reading his speech. Many of them knew Huxley had scarred corneas since childhood which accounted for his failing eyesight. How did he manage to read his speech without eyeglasses? Was it proof that the Bates System worked?

As Huxley went on, however, it became apparent that he wasn’t reading at all: he had memorized his speech. At a certain point, he missed a line and glanced at the paper he held. Then, the truth came out.

"To refresh his memory, he brought the paper closer to his eyes. When it was only an inch or so away he still couldn’t read it, and he had to fish for a magnifying glass in his pocket. It was an agonizing moment," recounted Bennett Cerf in the April 12, 1952 issue of Saturday Review.

In 1956, Dr. Philip Pollack, a Manhattan optometrist, wrote The Truth About Eye Exercises which exposed the flaws in the Bates System. Alas, Pollack’s book was soon forgotten while the Bates System lives on.

"It is difficult to understand the widespread popularity of the Bates System unless one considers that its followers make up what is essentially a cult. Its practitioners are faith healers who appeal to the gullible, the neurotic, the highly emotional, and the psychosomatic…. ‘Perfect sight without glasses’ is an empty promise," Worrall and Nevyas concluded.  

There are many common conceptions about health.  A good foundation in health science is the best guard against these and the more dangerous ones such as the ones at the hands of the chiropractor.  A little logic helps.  In the examples below, the popular beliefs are possible, but no one has looked closely at them to find out if they are.  Without a scientific study on the issue, the issue should be held in limbo—unless, of course, it is in conflict with the scientific understanding of our body.  The claim that eye exercise and correct myopia contains such a conflict.  Strengthening the muscles which move the eye will not change the shape of the eye, which is the caused by the focal point for light being slightly passed the retina—jk.