This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive
Natural vision correction: Does it work?
Promises that natural vision correction can improve eyesight without the
need for medication, surgery or spectacles have been around for years. The
principle is that simple eye exercises can restore normal vision. It’s
appealing, but it’s just not true, say professional organisations representing
licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists. In fact most experts consider the
claims of natural vision correction to be bogus.
We spoke to representatives on both sides of this controversial issue.
What is natural vision correction?
Most practitioners of natural vision correction base their approach on the
Bates Method, pioneered in 1919 by Dr William H. Bates, an ophthalmologist and
author of ’The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses’. Bates
believed that the cause of short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and other
refractive errors was tension, and that relaxing the eyes would allow them to
Although practitioners have convincing testimonials from patients, natural
vision correction is not recognised by many ophthalmologists (medically trained
doctors who have specialist training in conditions related to the eye) or
optometrists (people who are not doctors, but are trained to evaluate vision
and the health of the eye, as well as to prescribe and fit glasses and contact
Many of the people who offer natural vision correction have never attended
an accredited medical or optometry college. The Bates Method is not taught in
accredited schools of optometry and is not recognised by professional
ophthalmology or optometry organisations.
Followers of Bates claim that all the conditions normally corrected by
spectacles can be eliminated, and some even claim to help or eliminate serious
eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma. However, as with many alternative
therapies, there are few rigorous, randomised, controlled studies to back up
such claims. Bates and his followers based their natural vision correction
programmes on observation, not research.
“The Bates Method is based on an anatomical fallacy,” says ophthalmologist
Dr Richard Bensinger. “He developed a system that has persisted as the basis
for all systems that have been designed since. The fallacy it relies on is that
external muscles that control the eye’s movements control focus. But in fact,
the eye has an internal focusing mechanism.”
The ciliary muscles, attached to the eye’s flexible lens, assist focusing by
creating or relaxing tension on the lens. In this way, the lens curves to
accommodate close-up or distance vision. [while this might be ‘interesting’
information, it is extraneous and only clutters this paragraph, detracting from
its meaning] These internal muscles are separate from the external muscles that
move the eye.
“When we put drops in the eye to dilate the pupil, they paralyse the
focusing muscles”, says Bensinger. “The evidence of the anatomical fallacy is
that you can’t focus, but your eye can move up and down, left and right. The
notion that external muscles affect focusing is totally wrong.”