From Why Eyeglasses Are Harmful For Children And Young People, © 1969 Joseph J. Kennebeck, O.D.


This book will attempt to bring out and expose the causes of refractive and muscular eye troubles, pains, strains, and headaches, in cases of children and young people, and why glasses and contact lenses are not scientifically correct for them. If this can be done, then it will prove that all schools of eyework, all eyemen, including myself, and millions of eyeglass wearers have been wrong in what they have been doing and have believed in for many years. I was guilty for ten years.

Human eyes are doing so badly with glasses that they could not do worse without them. It may seem that it is just the other way, but nothing in the healing art could appear so right and be so wrong as glasses, as the supposed remedy for refractive eye troubles.

Let us forget about glasses and contact lenses long enough to consider what I have to say. We will start all over, right from the cradle. I will try to write this in plain language that the average person. can understand.

I will be mentioning circular ciliary muscles, accommodation, and dynamic skiametry. For those who may not know what they are, the circular ciliary muscles are the muscles of accommodation of the human eye; accommodation is the focusing of human eyes at all distances from far to near; dynamic skiametry is the use of what is known as the retinoscope to look into the eyes at a distance of thirteen inches, the patient looking at the examiner's nose, then his forehead, then his left ear, then his chin, and back to the nose, to determine the refractive status of the transparent media of the patient's eyes. There is another version of skiametry known as static skiametry. It is done at a distance of twenty-six inches, while the patient looks at what would be twenty feet. It does not uncover that which dynamic skiametry uncovers. Therefore, I use dynamic skiametry exclusively to determine the refractive status of the transparent media of human eyes, which cannot be determined by static skiametry.

All are born with more or less weak, undeveloped circular ciliary muscles of human eyes. Optically speaking this weakness is known as plus 2.00 to plus 8.00 diopters in dynamic skiametry findings, commonly known as farsightedness. Some are born cross-eyed, caused by the same findings, in one eye or both, but mostly in both.

As the child develops, the plus dynamic skiametry findings will develop toward normal, or less plus, by the natural use of the eyes. This means that the circular ciliary muscles of the eyes will develop toward normal as they grow older, which is natural and expected, if left alone.

By the time the child is five years old, his eyes will have about half as much dynamic skiametry findings as he had when born. By the time the child is ten years old, his eyes will have about half as much plus dynamic skiametry findings as he had at age five years, and so on as he goes through life. If left alone up to the time when his circular ciliary muscles and dynamic skiametry findings are normal, or near normal, many cross-eyes would be straightened. For the few that may not develop fast and far enough, or may over-develop, and the cross-eyes that may not straighten quickly enough, there are corrective measures. These can only be determined after an examination under the proper theory and method.

Most eyes can go through life, or at least up to age forty, without glasses, providing they were used right from the cradle. If some do not, these used their eyes wrong, and glasses are not the remedy, regardless of what type of refractive or muscular eye trouble they might have, caused by what they did wrong.

Before going into real refractive eye troubles, let us take up astigmatism and muscular imbalances, so that the finger can then be put on the cause of real refractive eye troubles.

Let us ignore and make little of astigmatism, instead of making a big case of it. Astigmatism will also tend to grow normal, if let alone, as one grows older. Making a big thing of astigmatism is making little of the real refractive eye trouble. Everyone can get along and see in their way through astigmatism over a period of time, as their circular ciliary muscles develop by the natural use of their eyes. As they grow older, if left alone, the eyes will round out, and the astigmatism will disappear.

Those who talk the most about their astigmatism, usually have only a slight case or none at all. They were horrified when they were told they had it. It sounded like they had some kind of a twist in the eyes, or a disease. They take the glasses and wear them faithfully from then on, telling everyone they meet that they have astigmatism, as if glasses improved or cured it. They don't know what it is, but they have it because the eyemen said so. Many eyemen know that when they tell a patient that he has astigmatism there will be no questions asked, and that the patient will take the glasses without argument.

Astigmatism is no more than a slight off-shape of the eyeball, due to lack of internal tone and pressure, allowing the eyeball to sag out of round in its socket. It amounts to little or nothing, and should be ignored in most cases. However, there is one type of astigmatism that might be classified as real. These cases are few and far between, compared to ordinary astigmatism. It is called structural astigmatism, of a more or less high degree, up to five diopters, rarely more. It could be due partly to sectional accommodation of the circular ciliary muscles. However, if left alone it, too, will tend toward normalcy over a period of time. If glasses are prescribed and worn, it will become permanent.

There are five kinds of astigmatism: plain farsighted, compound farsighted, mixed, plain nearsighted and compound nearsighted. The last three were formerly the first two. They changed from the first two, just the same as plus (farsightedness) changes into minus (nearsightedness); this will be explained under the heading of the cause of farsightedness and nearsightedness.

Like astigmatism, let us test for, record, and then ignore any and all muscular imbalances. They are the result of and caused by the off-normal circular ciliary muscles. As the circular ciliary muscles improve over a period of time, by the natural use of the eyes as they grow older, the muscular imbalances will improve and tend toward normal if left alone.

The circular ciliary muscles are the opposing muscles of the four extrinsic muscles. When the circular ciliary muscles are weak and undeveloped, the nerve force they do not get goes into one of the extrinsic muscles, causing it to over-contract, which in turn causes the muscular imbalance. As the circular ciliary muscles develop, taking up more and more nerve force, the nerve force is taken away from the over-contracted extrinsic muscle which is getting too much, allowing the muscular imbalance to improve or disappear. A one-eyed person has no extrinsic muscular problem. He can have only a circular ciliary muscle problem.

So let us ignore astigmatism and muscular imbalance, and blame all refractive eye troubles on the circular ciliary muscles.

If the circular ciliary muscles and the subjective tests are normal, there is no eye problem. If there is an eye problem, it has to be the fault of the circular ciliary muscles. It is nothing else. It could not be any other part of the human eye. The circular ciliary muscles are the key to any and all refractive eye troubles. To know the circular ciliary muscles is to know the cause of eye problems. The only exception might be amblyopia, which is the fault of the retina, optic nerve, or visual centers of the brain. Amblyopia means a dullness of vision that no lens will improve. It is not the fault of the ciliary muscles; therefore it is useless to try to fit a lens to an amblyopic eye. However, my corrective measures might improve amblyopia better than any other way.

To cite one case of amblyopia, or sub-normal vision, in both eyes: (Usually amblyopia is found only in one eye.) This case was a Miss W., age eleven; visual acuity was 20/70 poor in each eye. Dynamic skiametry was plus 4.00. She read only #6 type poorly at close range. In the Subjective (chart) test, no lenses would improve visual acuity. Esophoria, which was difficult to get, was 4 degrees at 13 inches, and 8 degrees at 20 feet. This case had been examined by several other eyemen, who could do nothing for her eyes. According to my theory and method, I ignored the esophoria, and no glasses were prescribed for wear. I gave corrective measures for the dynamic skiametry findings alone; nothing else. Checkups were made every two weeks for some time, showing no improvement in visual acuity. She seemed to have little trouble in school. However, we persevered, having the full cooperation from the patient and parents. We continued the corrective measures for the dynamic skiametry findings, when suddenly her visual acuity improved to 20/40, and two weeks later, to 20/20. Her dynamic skiametry findings improved from plus 4.00, to much less plus. I did not bother to take the muscular test.

This case had another affliction, that of sloughing or peeling of the skin of both hands and both feet. She had been to dermatology clinics for this, and her case was shown at medical meetings and conventions. I did not know whether or not there was any connection between this condition and her amblyopia. It seemed that dermatologists could do nothing for her. However, her amblyopia did finally respond to my corrective measures, but it took perseverance and full cooperation.

Dynamic skiametry is the key test of the circular ciliary muscles, along with the subjective (chart) test being the key test of the visual acuity. These two tests are the keys to all eye problems. Of the two key tests, the dynamic skiametry test is the most important to know, as it can be used even on an infant, or an illiterate who cannot have a subjective test or a muscular balance test. Without the dynamic skiametry key test, one could not know the eye problem. Static skiametry will not reveal the latent circular ciliary condition. Unless one is expert in determining dynamic skiametry tests, he cannot know the deep-seated fault of the circular ciliary muscles.

Dynamic skiametry tests should be done at thirteen inches from the patient, with the patient (if old enough) first looking at the examiner's nose, then his forehead, then his left ear, then his chin, and back to his nose. In this way, the examiner can test at several angles, through the transparent media of the eyes, to ascertain the dynamic skiametry findings, neutralizing them by turning lenses in the phoropter to measure the latent error. If the child patient is not old enough, the examiner can proceed as above, as the child's eyes wander around, watching the examiner, and the examiner can estimate the plus dynamic skiametry findings.

Since children who are too young, or illiterates cannot undergo a subjective test, they should be left alone rather than fitted or misfitted with wrong glasses. Skiametry findings alone are not enough to prescribe glasses for them. It's the poorest kind of guesswork. However, children will wear whatever is prescribed for them, whether the glasses are right or wrong. They love the novelty of the glasses; they even want to sleep with them on. Because of this, it looks like the glasses are a perfect fit, that the eyeman did a good job, and all seems well. The eyes conform to the wrong lenses, becoming what the glasses make them, and that is anything but good. They would all be better off if left alone while their eyes are in the process of developing toward normalcy. Usually the lenses are more or less high plus, which retards or stops natural development. It would be worse than the plus lenses if the examiner were foolish enough to guess at and prescribe minus (nearsighted) lenses, for a patient at such a young age. We all know what we have been doing for them; I say it is wrong, and I would like to put a stop to it.

Along with the dynamic skiametry findings, and, if possible, the subjective test, we should know the symptoms - whether they say they can't see, they see double, print runs together, they have pains, strains, or headaches, etc., or they feigning eye trouble just to get a pair of glasses, or malingering, or not doing well in school. Heretofore all such symptoms ended up with a pair of glasses as a supposed panacea for eyes, which they are not.

Let us analyze the symptoms, expose the cause, and then analyze why glasses are not scientifically correct for them. Regardless of the refractive eye condition, the dynamic skiametry findings, or the subjective test, they brought on their own symptoms by misuse and abuse of their eyes in any and all close work, such as reading too much, often with head in hands, on their elbows, on the stomach, on the floor, or reading prayer books the way they do in church; by writing, drawing, sketching, coloring, comics, girls crocheting, knitting, sewing, cutting out paper dolls, boys making model airplanes, cars, boats, keeping stamps and coins, picking at their fingers, etc. All of these were done the wrong way, the hard way-too hard, too close, too long, without looking up and away. In short, they caused their symptoms themselves. If they had not done any of the things mentioned above, there would be no eye troubles and therefore no glasses. If there are eye troubles, they did too much of what I just outlined.

Some go nearsighted just from having tried on someone else's glasses foolishly, to see if he could see with them. Depending on the strength of someone else's lenses, and how long he left them on, it could happen that quickly. No one should ever try on someone else's glasses for any reason. After even the slightest nearsightedness is once acquired, such cases should never look through binoculars, opera glasses, field glasses, or telescopes. They are worse than glasses. But it seems that these cases will do too much of the very things they should not do, and then wonder why their nearsightedness gets so bad, so quickly.

Because of what they did, they will have to pay for it by getting worse with glasses, or getting better quickly or slowly without glasses. They need discipline in the use of their eyes, in any and all close work, and corrective measures are necessary for those who might need help. Many will improve by themselves, if they will stop that which caused the eye trouble. Over a period of time they could become normal. Again I would say that they caused their own symptoms by the misuse and abuse of their eyes, in any and all close work, and that glasses are not their remedy. There are no exceptional cases where glasses might seem to be the remedy.

Cross-eyes, called esotropia, should be classified in a category of their own. They do not necessarily cause it themselves. They are afflicted with it, in most cases. Practically all cases I have had had a high diopter plus 4.00 to plus 8.00 dynamic skiametry findings, meaning weakness of the circular ciliary muscles, making for an over-contracted internal extrinsic muscle. In other words, what nerve force the circular ciliary muscles did not get got "off the track" into the internal extrinsic muscles, over-contracting them and causing the eyes to cross. Some cases-not all-have been made to look straight with high plus glasses for wear, which I say was a poor straightening. The high plus lenses not only prevented circular ciliary muscle development that would have taken place in time, if left alone, but paralyzed the action of the circular ciliary muscles. I did that myself for ten years, until I discovered it was wrong and unscientific. Just how it made some eyes look straight with glasses on I'll never know, and I don't think anyone else knows. However, during forty years of my theory and method for cross-eyes I used an entirely different procedure, without using glasses, developing the circular ciliary muscles toward normal and straightening the eyes, at the same time, in a number of cases. Some straightened at once and others took a little longer. However, all had to continue my corrective measures for some time thereafter, in order to continue the further development of the circular ciliary muscles that caused the cross-eyes in the first place. I have straightened some cases even after one, two, or three operations had failed. In an operation (tenotomy) for cross-eyes, there is a high percentage of risk and failure. In fact, they have to wear high plus glasses thereafter to try to hold the eyes straight. We can do better than that. I found out that practically all cross-eyed cases are the same, and practically all call for and respond to the same procedure, under my theory and method. Cross-eyed cases can be left alone, to watch and wait for improvement, or if eyemen think they must prescribe some kind of glasses, he could prescribe weak mild plus one lenses for wear, not high plus, as they would have ordinarily done before.

The "patch over one eye" system, used in some cross-eye cases and also in amblyopia, is a feeble effort that can do little if any good, especially in cases of cross-eyes. It stands to reason, that the minute a patch is put on the good eye of a cross-eyed case, there is no incentive for the eyes to straighten. In fact, it retards straightening. I discarded the use of a patch forty years ago as not being a true scientific effort. Even under the old theory of cross-eyes, or amblyopia, a powerful plus lens over the good eye would do better than a patch. The patch is used for want and need of a better procedure. The same goes for prescribing of more or less strong plus lenses for wear in cases of cross-eyes. The straightening of cross-eyes, with more or less strong plus lenses for wear, if they do make the eyes look straight with glasses on, is a poor straightening, and accomplished at the expense of stopping the development of the circular ciliary muscles. Any other method would be better than that or the patch over one eye.

Following are eight outstanding cases of cross-eyes, picked at random, ones that I remember well; ages are from seven to seventeen years. All are 100 per cent improvement cases, where the eyes not only were straightened, but the high plus refraction was made normal without glasses. All wore high plus glasses for some time before coming to me, and the eyes were crossed, with and without their glasses. All were cured under my theory and method of corrective measures. As said before, while some cases straightened in the first visit, and others in a short time, all had to continue the corrective measures long enough to improve or cure the plus refraction which caused the eyes to cross in the first place.

For the record, the names were John D. (age 16); Mary D. (age 17); Georgette L. (age 17); Cynthia B. (age 7); Beachy M. (age 16); Tom J. Jr. (age 14); John G. (age 15); and Richard O. (age 7). I have many other cases to my credit. They were all the same type of case. But if I did no more than what I did for the above eight cases, it was positive proof to me that my theory and method was correct, and that glasses were wrong for them. There's a long story attached to each one of them - too long to go into here.

In my forty years of practice, under my own theory and method, I have had only one or two cases of cross-eyes that were not like all the rest. Most cases showed high plus dynamic skiametry and subjective findings, along with the cross-eyes. The results I have had without glasses and with my corrective measures-borders on accomplishing the impossible.

The first case of cross-eyes I tackled with my own theory and method of corrective measures, was John D., age 16. His eyes straightened in the first visit, after being crossed for some sixteen years. It proved to me that my theory and method was right. Subsequent cases further proved to me that it takes more than glasses can ever do for any case of cross-eyes, to accomplish what can and, should be done. (Be it understood that I had already handled other types of cases successfully.)

If I told here and now what I do in corrective measures under my theory and method for cross-eyes and other types of cases, too many eyemen would laugh in my face and ridicule me to save their face, and not be proven wrong for what they have been doing all these years. They would declare that they knew it all the time, when their records will show otherwise, and that they did not know it all the time. That is why I say that corrective measures can be determined only after an examination under the proper theory and method. I feel that I am sticking my neck out far enough by making known my feelings against glasses for children and young people, without disclosing what I do or use in corrective measures, other than glasses for wear, for them. I am exposing my hand this much. If the masses of children and young people will take the first step and do what I have said, all will begin to improve or cure, even without corrective measures. This means that the children and young people will have to do the best they can by stopping their bad eye habits in any and all close work, by never resorting to glasses in the first place, and discarding the glasses already worn. If they will not do that much, corrective measures will be useless.

(Schools of eyework and eyemen can draw their own conclusions of what my corrective measures might be from what I have had to say, or they can contact me for the information. However, if they choose to contact me for the information they will have to admit, in their request for it and over their signature, that they agree with what I have had to say. If too few apply for the information, this offer will be withdrawn.)

It may seem that glasses can do only good and not harm, but the fact is that glasses can do only harm and not good for them, all arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. If all glasses were kept off or taken away from all children and young people who wear them, all would begin to improve. Not one would be hurt, go blind, or even half-blind, and all would be better off in the long run. There is no halfway measure. It must be all the way-glasses off. If one wears glasses part-time, he must grow worse. If one does not want to grow worse, he must give up glasses for all time.

Through a twist or blur in the vision, or any symptoms of pains, strains, or headaches which they caused themselves, they will become glasses conscious and resort to glasses. Then they will keep up their bad eye habits, in any and all close work, with the use of glasses. Soon-in a year or so-the same symptoms appear, this time with the glasses on, and they will be told they need a change of lenses. This goes on and on thereafter, as the eyes grow worse. If they had been disciplined in the use of their eyes and no glasses prescribed in the first place, this would not have happened.

Those who wear glasses for pains, strains, or headaches, soon have them again with the glasses, and they are the biggest users of headache powders. Headaches come from many things, such as exposure to fumes of fresh paint, varnish oils or gases, indigestion, gastritis, etc. Certainly glasses are not the remedy for these causes of headaches, but too many put on their first glasses because of such headaches. Whole families have put on glasses because of paint and varnish fumes while redecorating inside the home, wearing the glasses forever after. The eyeman should have traced the cause of the headaches to the fumes, and not to the supposed need of glasses. Headaches caused by fumes can last for some time, even after the fumes are cleared. But after getting unnecessary glasses and the fumes clear, the headaches are no more, and credit is given to the glasses. They continue to wear the glasses for fear of the return of the headaches.

All glasses are fitted, by all eyemen, in all cases, at twenty feet or its equivalent. Twenty feet is only one point where eyes look, from near to far, in all directions. Particularly in myopia, there is no lens that can be made to scientifically fit the eyes to all other distances. No one uses his eyes at a distance of exactly twenty feet all the time.

Glasses fitted at twenty feet are harmful and habit-forming at twenty feet and beyond. Few, if any, use their eyes beyond twenty feet as much as they do inside of twenty feet. inside of twenty feet the glasses are many times worse. Glasses are wrong at every foot inside of twenty feet. At ten feet the glasses are twice wrong; at five feet they are four times wrong; at one foot, they are twenty times wrong. This is arrived at by dividing the distance eyes look into twenty feet, to determine how many times the glasses are wrong. This is the reason why glasses are not scientifically correct, and this reason alone should turn the masses against glasses. (This does not apply to cases after cataract removal.)

There are those who would try to discredit me, to save face and not to be proven wrong for what they have been doing all these years, loudly proclaiming that eyes will compensate through glasses made for twenty feet to see at all other distances. That is true as long as they are young enough to do it. I always knew that. But I must warn you, eyes cannot compensate through glasses made for twenty feet for all other distances, WITHOUT BEING HURT. This is why and where glasses fall down. This is what brings on the progressiveness of myopia, which could have been prevented if the glasses had never been prescribed or worn.

There are those who know that the above is true, who will prescribe bifocals, which is a feeble effort which can do little or no good. They know that myopic lenses, fitted for twenty feet, are too strong for close work. What they do not seem to realize is that there are nineteen other feet, inside of the twenty feet, where the myopic lenses are too strong. Besides, children and young people do not like bifocals, and will not bother to look through the bifocal part for close work, looking over the bifocals most of the time. Myopic cases continue to progress, in spite of the bifocals.

There have been many articles in our eye journals expressing concern about the cause of myopia (nearsightedness) of children and young people, and what to do about it. It is something to be concerned about; it has gone too far and gotten out of control, using the old tradition of glasses as a remedy. Old-timers in the optical supply business remember, and agree, that up to twenty-five years ago their stock of already ground but uncut lenses was mostly farsighted lenses. Today, most of their stock is nearsighted lenses. Today, most of the prescriptions for glasses for children and young people, whether ready-made, or specially ground, are of the nearsighted variety. Today, making children and young people see with nearsighted glasses is considered to be not only a skill but an art, when, in fact it is placing too much confidence in glasses on the part of the one who does the examining and prescribing, and the gullibility of those concerned, the ones for whom the glasses were prescribed.

While the articles in our eye journals are more or less alike, one recent article concerns itself in great detail as to whether nearsightedness grows progressively worse faster or slower with single vision or bifocal nearsighted lenses. Nearsightedness grows progressively worse with either or both. The writers seem to think that they must allow the patients to see clearly, with nearsighted glasses, while at the same time trying to prevent progression. This cannot be done. But such articles do show that some eyemen are concerned about the progression of myopia in cases of children and young people. None of them advocate, as I do, deliberately removing glasses for everything and anything, and disciplining them in the use of their eyes in any and all close work, which was and always will be the cause of their nearsightedness.

Progression of myopia cannot be stopped as long as the patients are allowed to wear nearsighted glasses (single vision or bifocals), at any time. It can be stopped, and the myopia can be improved or cured, by not allowing that just mentioned, and by disciplining them in the use of their eyes in any and all close work. Let those concerned think about that for a while. Parents can do that much themselves, without even consulting an eyeman. The parents should watch and wait for the nearsightedness to improve or cure itself over a period of time.

There is another scientific reason why nearsighted glasses, in particular, are unscientific and wrong for children and young people. We all know, or should know, that normal eyes accommodate three diopters of power to read at thirteen inches, relaxing to a state of rest when looking up and away; not so with nearsighted eyes and glasses. Nearsighted eyes have to over-accommodate through nearsighted glasses to read at thirteen inches, as compared to normal eyes. Their over-accommodation adds up to the nearsighted lens power they wear for distance, say for example minus three diopters, plus the same three diopters that normal eyes use to see at thirteen inches, which makes six diopters of accommodation used by such nearsighted eyes through nearsighted glasses. In cases where the eyes are six diopters nearsighted, they use nine diopters to read, and so on, whereas normal eyes only use three diopters to read. Such reasoning applies to all other distances inside of twenty feet.

Just as misuse and abuse of the eyes, or over-accommodation, in any and all close work, causes the nearsightedness in the first place, such terrific over-accommodation through nearsighted glasses, causes the increased progressive nearsightedness in the second place. Part or all of such over-accommodating locks the refractive media of the eyes into more and more nearsightedness, or over-convexity of the eyeballs. Children and young people can see through nearsighted glasses, at all distances, as long as they are young enough to do it, but the nearsighted lenses will prevent improvement of the nearsightedness. In other words, nearsighted glasses and also farsighted glasses will create more of the same problem for which the lenses were prescribed and worn. If left alone, without glasses, and the bad eye habits in all close work were stopped, the eyes would return towards normal.

Under the old tradition of prescribing glasses for the eyes, the same eyeman who will harness up the accommodation with the strongest plus lenses the eye will take in hyperopic or farsighted cases, will prescribe minus lenses that will force the eyes into over-accommodation in nearsighted eyes. This does not make scientific sense. If accommodating is supposed to be bad for farsighted eyes, it is worse for nearsighted eyes. We should allow farsighted eyes to accommodate to see and overcome their own weakness, developing toward normal over a period of time, and we should prevent nearsighted eyes from over-accommodating, relaxing the circular ciliary muscles toward normalcy over a period of time, both without glasses Therefore, prescribing plus or minus lenses in cases of children and young people is doing worse than doing nothing for them, regardless of the type of case, or whether or not there is a better method for them.