One of the articles on this blog that has garnered the most interest and generated the most comments–both here and on the Discussion Forum–concerns the use of plus lenses and threshold focusing in order to reverse myopia. In my post “Improve eyesight— and throw away your glasses“, and the accompanying page on “Rehabilitation“, I showed how the principles of Hormetism can be applied to restore visual acuity and eliminate the need to wear glasses — without the need for laser surgery or other artificial measures. In essence, reading or viewing “at the edge of focus” for extended intervals over a period of about a year will stimulate the eye to physically shorten, substantially reducing or eliminating myopia. In my post, I cited research supporting research for the Incremental Retinal Defocus Theory of myopia and its reversal.
The article has generated a lot of interest, but also some skepticism. People who otherwise recognize that weight lifting can remodel muscles and diet can change metabolism fail to appreciate how the same principle of gradually applied stimulus can change the focal range of the eye. Since I wrote the article, many contributors to the Discussion Forum have chimed in with their progress, their questions, and their success stories. Quite a few individuals have been able to significantly reduce the strength of their optical prescriptions. In a few cases, they have been able to return to 20/20 vision, or better.
Sometimes real success stories can inspire us to try a new approach. So I invited one of our Forum members, who goes by the screen name “Shadowfoot”, to share his story with you.
Todd: Thanks for volunteering to do this interview, Shadowfoot. For the benefit of readers, please tell us a little about yourself.
Shadowfoot: I’m seventeen years old, and I live in the United States. I like to think that I have had an eclectic upbringing, and I suppose that is at least partially true. I have been home-schooled, public schooled, gone to a Montessori school, and will earn my associates degree from the local community college this Spring, in addition to being highly self educated. In many ways, you might say that I am not a typical teenager. Yet I also think that in other ways I am much more of a teenager than I would like to admit.
Todd: Your passion and your motivation are evident in your contributions on our Discussion Forum, Shadowfoot. Tell us about how you came to start wearing glasses or contacts and how it progressed. What caused you to question the wisdom of continuing to wear corrective lenses?
Shadowfoot: I’ve had imperfect vision for as long as I can remember. Even before I got glasses, I was often unable to read signs at the same distance as those around me. The distance which I was able to read signs was probably two to three times normal or so, at least in the years before I got my glasses. Yet it did not negatively impact my life in any major way, so I didn’t really see any need to get glasses. That changed a few years ago when I began to have trouble reading the whiteboard in school. It was then that I decided to get glasses.
Todd: What was your initial reaction to wearing glasses?
Shadowfoot: I remember that wearing them always gave me a feeling of power and satisfaction. There seems to be a human fascination with improving very quickly. A perfect example is the endless range of “Learn X in two weeks” products. Glasses are what these products wish they could do. They are what drugs wish they could do. “Here, put these on . . . and now you are perfect.” Basically, I could see SO much better. Imagine if you could put on a pair of shoes and run two times faster. That’s a little bit like how I felt. So for a year, I wore glasses to school and when travelling, but not around the house or when reading. Sometimes I did, but I generally shied away from it for a different, and very important, reason: I seem to have a natural aversion to wearing things. For example, I am always happier in the summer in loose fitting clothing and no shoes. In the same way, despite the amazing vision, I did not like to wear glasses when they were not necessary.
Todd: I had the same attitude. I really did not like having to wear glasses.
Shadowfoot: Yeah. So I was caught between two ideals: the desire to have perfect vision and the desire to not wear glasses. One night, about two years ago now, in a fit of boredom, I turned to Google for an alternative. I quickly discovered the Bates Method. Despite that fact that it was labeled as pseudoscience and most of the sites I found talking about it seemed to be trying to sell me something, the allure was too great. I learned the basics and had some success over the next year.
Todd: Where did your vision start out when you came across the Bates Method and how did you progress from there?
Shadowfoot: When I first wore glasses, I was at 20/40, as confirmed by the Snellen chart in my biology lab. When I found your site, after a year of not wearing glasses, I was down to 20/30. I attribute that to Bates’ method of distance gazing and relaxation techniques. I don’t think the eye strengthening exercises such as making figure-eights with my eyeballs helped much though.
It was not until I discovered the plus-lens method and really began to experiment that I was able to improve my vision to the level I desired. After six months of further experimenting, I reached 20/15. Presently, depending on what kind of work I have been doing and how diligent I have been about proper habits, I generally fluctuate between 20/20 on a good day and 20/25 on a bad day. In the future, I hope to reach 20/12, which I have reason to believe is my maximum possible acuity. But that’s not so much a matter of technique as diligence. It’s like, I could break the five minute mile mark and shave off those last twenty-three seconds from my personal record. But I just . . . haven’t. I don’t really have any need to. Unless I am feeling ambitious, 20/20 vision is usually “good enough.”
Todd: I think getting from 20/40 to 20/20 is quite an impressive improvement in less than a year!
Shadowfoot: I suppose. I could probably get back to 20/15 or better in a few weeks if I was really diligent about it. At the same time, I could just as easily drop back to 20/40 in the same amount of time if I wanted to. That’s why it’s all about persistence over the long term.
Todd: You’re definitely right about that. Vision improvement is not a one-time effort. It’s about maintaining good vision with good practices. But I’d like to know more about your success. Can you expand upon your experience? What tips can you share about what worked well for you?
Shadowfoot: Before I answer that, I want to say a few things about the causes of myopia. Hopefully, this will help to clarify my methods and observations.
Todd: Sure, go ahead.
Shadowfoot: The powerful realization that I have come to is that there are actually two mechanisms by which myopia occurs. The first is an actual physical elongation of the eyeball. This causes light to fall before the retina, resulting in a refractive error. The second kind is caused by the eye remaining accommodated to close work even when viewing in the distance. Here the optics are a little bit more complicated, but the end result is the same. I think this accommodative myopia is related to sustained muscle tension rather than changes to the shape of the eye. So it is much quicker in the onset, as well as the relief. It is this instability that probably causes the daily swings in vision often observed and noted on your forum. My approach has been primarily to minimize accommodative myopia, while at the same time slowly improving the true myopia aspect.
Todd: Yes, I think that what you call “accommodative myopia” is sometimes called “pseudomyopia”. It’s quite real, but unstable. So how did you deal with that?
Shadowfoot: I do a number of things. When reading, I try to give my eyes frequent breaks, even if it is only looking into the distance for a few seconds, and by making a habit out of distance gazing several times a day. I do this by tracing objects in the distance, such as tree branches or telephone lines, sometimes bare-eye and sometimes with plus lenses. They both seem to have advantages. And when I do that, I generally try to trace objects: the edges of houses, trees, etc, which I find more effective than just trying to “look” at things. Actually, just looking at things doesn’t really work at all, because your eye will tend to rest on things it can see well. That’s why you have to challenge the limits of your acuity. This has two purposes: first, to stretch and relax the eye muscles (essentially combating accommodative myopia); and second, to challenge my visual threshold, which is, ultimately what causes vision improvement. When I do these things, my vision improves, when I don’t, it flatlines or gets worse. Yet, I have a tendency to get absorbed in what I am doing and forget to do this. Haven’t figured out how to beat that one yet.
Todd: I also like to do what you suggest – alternating my focus between near and far objects, and carefully observing the sorts of details and features you mention. You make an excellent point that vision improvement is an active process.
Shadowfoot: There is something else I feel the need to point out, although it is a little hard to explain. When doing the exercises I just mentioned, I sometimes feel a kind of tension in my eyes, particularly if I have recently been doing a ton of reading without any breaks. Tension isn’t really the right word, because, to the best of my knowledge at least, I am actually relaxing the eye muscles. The best analogy I can think of it when you have been sitting for too long and you stand up. There is a period of time when your muscles suddenly feel tight in their new positions, as if they still want to be sitting. It is a little bit like that. So, in general, when doing these exercises, I try to go slowly if I feel any of this so-called tension, making sure to relax my eyes often by closing them for a few seconds.
There is also another kind of tension related to working at the edge of your optical range, either when using the plus lens or distance gazing. There was a whole episode I described on the Forum, when I discovered that tension, specifically from using the plus lenses too much, was causing me to get redeye. For that reason, I generally don’t use the plus for close work anymore. Distance gazing is generally less intensive and for shorter periods of time, so I don’t have a problem there.
Todd: Yes, a number of people on the Forum have mentioned problems like eyestrain and redeye. I agree with you that it is important to take breaks and rest. Pushing too hard is counterproductive.
Another question: Do you still wear glasses – either minus lenses or plus lenses?
Shadowfoot: I haven’t worn minus lenses in two years, except when I want to give myself motivation. A sort of, here is what you have to look forward to, why are you being lazy? But then it is only for a few minutes, as the prescription doesn’t fit anymore and they give me a headache pretty quickly. As for plus lenses, I like going for walks in the woods with those. But I don’t use them for close work.
Todd: Thanks for the good discussion, Shadowfoot. I hope your success will inspire others to take charge of their vision and take a closer look at how you, I and others have reversed our myopia and overcome our dependence on wearing glasses.
To my readers: If you want to know more about how Shadowfoot and others improved their vision using the principles of hormetic stress, I strongly encourage you to read the thread called “Eyesight without Glasses” on the Rehabilitation page of the Discussion Forum of this blog. Many questions you may have are already answered there. Feel free to post your questions and share your experience there.
September 6, 2012 update:
This blog article is now CLOSED to further comments. I think it has gone on long enough. If you wish to comment further or raise additional questions, please do so on the Discussion Forum linked to this blog.