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


No one is blind without glasses. Anyone who can see with glasses can also see, in a way, without them, at least well enough to get along until his eyes improve. Only the blind ARE blind, and they cannot see even with glasses. Too many of them are blind from wearing glasses. Let it be understood that nearsighted eyes can do close work easily without glasses.

The severe cases of today were the mild cases of yesterday, just as the mild cases of today will be the severe cases of tomorrow, from wearing glasses. There are eye troubles—that is true—but no one is so bad in the beginning that he has to resort to glasses and wear them as he does, to supposedly see with or to supposedly save his eyes. One might be able to see with glasses until they need changing, but the glasses will not save his eyes. Of course if one does not live very long, it makes little or no difference if he wears glasses, but no one knows how long one will live. If one lives to a ripe old age, he will have the poorest eyes, at middle age and past, if he wore glasses before. Therefore, one must fight off glasses at a younger age to have the best eyes at an older age. One cannot wait until it is too late to do it. No one would be hurt by fighting off glasses, as much as all are hurt who resort to glasses.

Loyalty to the old tradition of glasses is widespread, and practically universal. As said before, all must save face and not be proven wrong in what all have believed in throughout the years. If all were as loyal and true to their eyes as they are to glasses, all would be better off in the long run. But all have more confidence in glasses, and less confidence in their eyes; too bad. Those who wear glasses think that they are wiser than those who do not, and will not wear them. Why be so loyal to glasses, when glasses are not loyal to eyes?

To know more about lenses is to better understand what they are. There are spheres, cylinders, and prism lenses. It has been said that a prism is not a lens. The fact is that all lenses are prisms, pure and simple. Spheres and cylinders are prisms to the circular ciliary muscles, just the same as prisms are prisms to the extrinsic muscles. The spherical lenses are cone-shaped prisms, having a curvature. The curvature is there to make them useful as lenses. Without the curvature, they would be useless. The cylindrical lenses are V-shaped split prisms, having a curvature for the same purpose as for spheres. Plus spherical and cylindrical lenses for wear kill the action of the circular ciliary muscles. Minus spherical and cylindrical lenses, for wear, over-develop the circular ciliary muscles. If left alone, without glasses, the circular ciliary muscles would tend toward normal.

With plus or minus glasses, the circular ciliary muscles will tend to grow farther and farther away from normal. Plus lenses are sedatives to the circular ciliary muscles of farsighted eyes that are in need of a stimulant, or development. Minus lenses are a stimulant to the circular ciliary muscles of nearsighted eyes that are in need of a sedative, relaxation, or underdevelopment. In other words, the circular ciliary muscles of farsighted eyes need building up, while the circular ciliary muscles of nearsighted eyes need toning down. Either or both will do that, over a period of time, if left alone. The wearing of glasses, for either or both, does just the opposite.

Prisms are rarely fitted for wear, for muscular imbalance, for obvious reasons. The muscular imbalance could never improve, and would only worsen, with prisms for wear. Certainly no eyeman would fit powerful base out prisms for esotropia, or cross-eyes. Every effort would be made to straighten cross-eyes, in some way, without prisms for wear. Therefore, if one would not prescribe base out prisms for cross-eyes, he should not prescribe prisms for wear, or for any other muscular imbalance, tropia or phoria. Patients will have to live with whatever muscular imbalance they have without prisms for wear. In severe cases of vertical or horizontal imbalance, causing double vision, the patient will have to close one eye, when necessary, until the imbalance improves itself, or be improved by corrective measures, or both.

Since spherical and cylindrical lenses are also prisms, particularly to the circular ciliary muscles, by the same token they should not be prescribed for wear. With them, the circular ciliary muscles could never improve, and would only grow worse. It stands to reason that the circular ciliary muscles could never get better with plus or minus spherical and cylindrical glasses for wear. They have to grow worse. They would get better and not worse without spherical and cylindrical prism lenses. It can be no other way.

In orthoptics, or so-called vision training, one tries to improve the muscular imbalance, usually using prisms, base opposite that found in the eye examination, to supposedly build up the ductions. Since muscular imbalances are the result of, and caused by, off-normal ciliary muscles, this is a waste of time, and an unscientific procedure; treating a condition, and not the cause. Therefore, prisms are only useful in the eye examination to measure the muscular imbalance; they are useless otherwise. We should test for, record, and know the muscular imbalance, and then ignore it. Then if we do not prescribe plus or minus spherical and cylindrical prism lenses for wear, the circular ciliary muscles and the muscular imbalance will improve over a period of time, and especially if we stop our bad eye habits.

Previously I tried to show that the plus found in the eyes through dynamic skiametry, in infancy, will grow toward normal through the natural use of the eyes as they grow older, if left alone and without glasses. This is providing the eyes were used right, and all children and young people should be taught how to use their eyes right, and how not to use them wrong. However, some are bound to use their eyes wrong. In doing so, by using their eyes the hard way-too hard, too close, too long, without looking up and away-some over develop through the normal into myopia, or nearsightedness. Large pupils, pains, strains, and headaches are the first signs of one going to over-develop this way. As of today, this happens to over ten out of a hundred children and young people. Twenty-five years ago it was only a few per thousand. This is because the children and young people of today use their eyes harder, in much more close work, than they did twenty-five years ago. The way they are going today, if something is not done to stop it the score will be up to fifty or more in each hundred going nearsighted, in years to come. What is necessary is to discipline all children and young people in the use of their eyes as previously described, and never, never allow them to resort to glasses. Those who develop nearsightedness in spite of all precautions, should be forced to do the best they can with their eyes, without glasses, regardless of the diopter or degree of the nearsightedness. Resorting to glasses will multiply it progressively.

Only children and young people are stricken with nearsightedness. Once they are stricken with even a quarter of one diopter, they are subject to it for some time to come thereafter. However, most cases are stricken with one to three diopters before it is discovered. All will go progressive if bad eye habits are not stopped, and glasses are resorted to, or both. There is no end to its progression; up to and past the age of forty, into ten, twenty, or even thirty diopters of nearsightedness.

Farsightedness is not bad or good, compared to nearsightedness. Nearsightedness is mean, dangerous, and treacherous. It is the worst refractive eye trouble that can happen to children and young people, the worst condition that eyemen have to deal with and for the patient to have. As said before, it is over-developed, over-contracted, circular ciliary muscles. It is an eyeball locked into nearsightedness, with a strong tendency to lock more and more, tighter and tighter, circular ciliary muscles. Adults are not as subject to it, but if an adult is foolish enough to use his eyes as children and young people do, and did not go nearsighted at a young age, possibly one in 500 or 1000 could go nearsighted at an older age. Then they would go progressive from there. But it is children and young people we should be most concerned about. If we can prevent them from going nearsighted, there will be few if any adults thereafter going nearsighted.

There are those who will try to discredit me, who will declare and insist that one is born nearsighted, that it is hereditary, and that the eyeballs are too long. Even if that were so, glasses are not the scientific remedy. But it is not so. As said before, no one can be born nearsighted, any more than one can be born with false teeth or a wooden leg. Infants might acquire nearsightedness from sucking their thumb or fingers, but they are not born with it. It is not hereditary. It would make no difference if the parents, grandparents, uncles, or aunts, were or were not nearsighted. Each and every one who is nearsighted had to acquire it himself. There are parents having normal eyes whose children might be nearsighted, and there are nearsighted parents whose children's eyes are normal or farsighted. One might inherit the traits that cause nearsightedness, but not the nearsightedness. Only farsightedness, or weak circular ciliary muscles, can be hereditary.

As for nearsighted eyes being too long, they could not be as long in the eye socket as they would have to be in a more or less high diopter of nearsightedness; neither could a farsighted eye be as short in its socket as it would have to be in a more or less high diopter of farsightedness. Nearsightedness is too much convexity, or refractive power, of the eyes, while farsightedness is too little convexity, or refractive power, of the eyes. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that one was born with one diopter of nearsightedness, and glasses are prescribed as a remedy. Since all grow worse with glasses, as explained previously, in a year or so the nearsightedness has progressed to two or three diopters. In another year or so, the nearsightedness has progressed to three or four diopters, and so on every year thereafter up to and past the age of forty, into ten, twenty, and even thirty diopters. They were supposed to have been born with only one diopter. Let anyone try to prove otherwise, or where the increased myopia came from.

There are too many cases of malingerers, of children and young people who feign eye trouble just to get glasses for secret reasons of their own. Because others wear them, they want to wear them. They fool their parents and the eyeman into getting glasses they secretly know they do not need. It is really a question as to whether they really fooled the eyeman or the eyeman fooled them in the deal. However, the eyeman should have suspected the patient. Since the patient demanded glasses, the eyeman had no trouble finding a lens for him to wear. In such cases, the lens is hardly ever plus, which would blur the vision of good eyes. So, during the eye examination, the eyeman turns in minus lens power, more or less, and the patient suddenly proclaims how much better he can see. Let it be understood that a normal or even a farsighted eye can see sharper through a more or less mild nearsighted minus lens, making black more black, and white more white, but the patient should not be allowed to wear them. However, the unnecessary minus nearsighted lenses are prescribed for wear, the patient is proud of and loves his glasses, and he wears them all the time. Soon his vision is blurred without them. Then soon, in a year or so, his vision is not clear as it was with them, and he demands a change. It goes on and on from there. The glasses never last and must be changed often. All this happens because the patient developed an eyeglass complex in the beginning, and the eyeman prescribed unnecessary nearsighted glasses.

It could be that too many eyemen are afraid of losing the patient, thinking that if he did not prescribe the unnecessary glasses some other eyeman would. It would have been wiser and better for the patient if the eyeman had fooled him by prescribing plano lenses, instead of mild minus lenses. The patient would not know the difference, being more interested in glass frames than lenses. Few, if any, eyemen would do this, being afraid that they would be caught prescribing plano lenses. But the plano lenses would not hurt the patient's eyes. Eyes are quick to take hold, and become what the minus lenses make them-nearsighted for life. If those who would wear unnecessary glasses wore plano lenses, they would be better off. It is hard to understand why one who supposedly does not need glasses would want to wear them.

There are probably as many wearing glasses they never should have had in the first place, as those who might have had real refractive eye trouble.

Because so many are wearing glasses, it makes it next to impossible to prove that glasses are not scientific. Glass-wearers will give all kinds of excuses and reasons why they put on their first glasses, and why they cannot do without them. They will never admit that they love to wear glasses.

Not all who have real refractive eye trouble wear glasses, and not all who wear glasses have real refractive eye trouble. It is hard to tell one from the other; you see so many wearing glasses. Glasses do not make the dumb smart, or the smart smarter, but too many wear them as a mark of distinction, with an air of superiority, to get sympathy, to cover up facial defects, failures in life or school, etc. It has been said-"He is such a nice person. Isn't it too bad that he has to wear glasses?" In too many cases they don't have to wear them, but they love to hear that. They are sure that glasses can do only good and no harm, when the fact is that glasses can do harm and no good. If anyone thinks he became better with glasses, the truth is he became better in spite of the glasses, and not from wearing them. For each one, who might insist that his eyes got better with glasses, there are millions who became worse with them. Glasses are looked upon as something sacred, something which no one should ever raise his voice against, at any time. Glasses are put on without a fight or opposition; it's "goodbye eyes" from that time on.

The Salk vaccine is for the prevention of polio; it was never intended for treatment, or as a remedy after the polio is once acquired. I often wonder how Dr. Salk overcame the superior complexes and jealousies of medical practitioners in establishing his claim to his discovery of the prevention of polio. I feel that it is going to be even harder for me to overcome the superior complexes and jealousies of ophthalmological and optometrical schools of eyework. Fifty thousand eyemen and countless millions believe in glasses as they all believe in God. It was easy for Dr. Salk, compared to this.

Pasteur was almost exiled from his country, half-paralyzed, a broken man, and almost died before he could prove his germ theory to a skeptical world. He had to fight the medical minds of his day, yet he was only a chemist. If it were not for his discovery, a great many of the people of today would not be among the living. Many so-called medical discoveries of today should be credited to chemistry. My theory and method should be credited to optometry.

Far be it from me to compare myself to Pasteur or Salk, but what I would like to do for the eyes of children and young people, is not secondary to the Pasteur or Salk accomplishments. I feel that my opposition is greater by far, than was that of Pasteur or Salk, or any other discovery. It seems that the whole world believes in glasses so firmly that it is skeptical of anyone who raises his voice against them. The skeptics so love what they think glasses do for their wearers that they would crucify the one who would hold otherwise.

Just as the Salk vaccine is only for the prevention of new cases of polio, my theory is first and foremost for the prevention of new cases of refractive eye troubles and complaints, by stopping bad eye habits in all cases and never, never resorting to glasses. However, unlike the Salk theory, in my theory cases of refractive eye trouble, already stricken and wearing glasses, can be helped, improved, or cured by stopping bad eye habits and discarding glasses.

As the germ theory is the key to infection and disease, the circular ciliary muscles are the key to practically all refractive and muscular eye troubles, pains, strains and headaches. This is proven even under the old tradition of glasses for the masses, by the fact that minus or plus spherical and/or cylindrical lenses are fitted for wear, in practically all cases, as a supposed remedy. They were fitted for the faults of the circular ciliary muscles. In doing so, they created more of the same faults for which the glasses were prescribed and worn. To know the germ theory is to know the cause of infection and disease. To know the circular ciliary muscles is to know the cause and condition of refractive and muscular eye troubles. It takes skill in dynamic skiametry to know the circular ciliary muscles. Too few eyemen have that skill. Most of them use static skiametry.

There are just so many different types of cases, such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism (five kinds), in one eye, the other, or both the same; also cross-eyes and muscular imbalances, pains, strains, and headaches-all caused by and the result of off-normal circular ciliary muscles. There is no mystery about them. The mystery is in how it has been believed that glasses for wear are the remedy for any and all cases. All such symptoms and conditions can he traced back to the cause, namely the misuse and abuse of the eyes. Stop the cause and there will be no such eye troubles.

Patients do not consult eyemen because they might have one or all of the above-mentioned eye conditions. They could live with and get along with such conditions, if they used their eyes right. They consult eyemen because they used their eyes wrong. The eyeman finds one of the above-mentioned conditions, and blames that as the cause of their complaints. Instead of telling them that they need glasses, the eyemen should tell them that they need DISCIPLINE in the use of their eyes. But both eyeman and patient think the case calls for and has to be remedied by glasses. The glasses never last and have to be changed often, always for stronger and stronger lenses, every year or so thereafter. If, in some cases, a change is not called for, the glasses were prescribed too strong the time before. Nothing could be worse than for an eyeman to prescribe too strong a lens for any type case, but it is particularly bad in nearsightedness (myopia). It is bad enough in farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism of any type.

Practically all eyemen use the same system of eye examination. They take the visual acuity test, then the retinoscope, (it should be dynamic skiametry), then run the fogging method for the subjective test, to see what lens they can prescribe for the patient to wear. Of course there are other tests, but those are the most important.

The fogging method consists of starting with high plus to blur, gradually reducing the plus by quarters of a diopter until the patient can see letters on the test chart, down to about 20/50. Then the eyeman attempts to apply minus cylindrical lenses for more or less astigmatism. For this the eyeman must find the power and axis of the astigmatic lenses. He tries to find some astigmatism-more or less-in every case, as he was taught to do. Since I make little of astigmatism, I try not to find any, making little of the more or less that I might find, except in real cases of structural astigmatism, and I do not make big of that. I have seen many of them get along without glasses, and improve or turn into farsightedness, and then the farsightedness improve toward normal, by leaving them alone. Finding some astigmatism at some axis might take the patient's visual acuity down to the 20/20 line. If not, then the eyeman will reduce the plus spherical lenses another quarter of a diopter, or more, until the patient does 20/20. If the patient's eyes are on the plus side, the eyeman will then prescribe it for wear, the lens being the strongest plus the eyes would take still retaining 20/20, or nearest to artificial vision, which is supposed to be the proper and scientific thing to do. Then the eyes go into more and more plus every year thereafter, with the use of the glasses.

I would abolish and discontinue the fogging method for an eye examination. Instead of fogging down from high plus lenses, I would start at plano, turning in plus by quarters of a diopter, until the vision is worse. Then I would back up the plus until vision is best, to determine the refractive condition from the subjective test. In most cases, there will be a great difference between the maximum plus found in the fogging down method, and the minimum plus found in the turning up of the plus method. Thus, instead of prescribing the strongest plus the eye would take, I would prescribe the weakest plus, if I were going to prescribe glasses for wear. Since I am opposed to glasses for wear, I would use my findings, along with my dynamic skiametry findings, to determine the refractive status and the condition of the circular ciliary muscles, thereby enabling me to advise the patient what to do, as outlined before. So much for cases on the plus side, from a dynamic skiametry and subjective standpoint.

In cases below plano, or below zero, or calling for minus lenses for more or less nearsightedness (myopia), again I would start at plano, turning in minus lenses by quarters of a diopter down, in the same way as in the plus fogging method, until the patient can do 20/20, being overly careful not to turn in any more minus than absolutely necessary, urging the patient to respond, knowing that the more minus I would turn in, the better the eyes could see. Too often a nearsighted patient will wait for the eyeman to turn in more and more minus before he will say that he can see as good as he wants to; this I would not allow. The patient is only allowed the minimum minus, barely retaining 20/20 vision. While plus farsighted eyes have a tendency toward (pseudo) astigmatism, nearsighted eyes have little or no tendency toward it. This is due to the fact that the weak plus farsighted circular ciliary muscles can and do allow the eyeball to sag out of round in its socket, causing the astigmatism, while the too strong minus nearsighted circular ciliary muscles keep the eyeball round, allowing little or no astigmatism.

Therefore I spend little or no time trying to find astigmatism in the nearsighted case. As said before, since I am opposed to glasses for wear I would use my subjective findings, along with any dynamic skiametry findings, to determine the refractive status and the condition of the circular ciliary muscles, thereby enabling me to advise the patient what to do, as outlined before. So much for cases on the minus side, from the dynamic skiametry findings and the subjective standpoint.

In any refractive eye trouble, there are only two kinds of circular ciliary muscle faults. They are too weak or too strong.

Measured in diopters, in cases of children and young people, they are born with plus 2 to 8 diopters in farsightedness, or acquire up to thirty diopters in nearsightedness after having been born with farsightedness. The lenses that it takes, in the eye examination, to artificially make see, or relieve, are only a measure of the refractive eye trouble, not the remedy. If no glasses are prescribed for wear, farsighted circular ciliary muscles will develop normally, if used correctly, and there will be no cases of nearsightedness. If used incorrectly, some may overdevelop through the normal into the nearsighted field. If no glasses are prescribed for the latter, and they are disciplined in the use of their eyes, they could return toward normal.

Children and young people do not have to have 20/20 vision to see, or to save their eyes. Twenty/twenty vision is nice to have, but not healthy if it takes glasses to do it. Beware of clear vision with glasses. The wearing of glasses can fool the wearer, but they cannot fool the eyes. The eyes will become just what glasses make them, and that is anything but good. The eyes want to be free to roam the field of vision without glasses. They want to tend toward a close relationship of focusing and fusing for any and all distances. Plus or minus lenses for wear break up that relationship, therefore, we must not deal in vision with glasses alone; we must deal in future eye welfare. No one can have future eye welfare with glasses.

The old tradition of eyes and glasses is buried deep in the hearts and minds of the masses. Most people are flabbergasted when they find out the truth about eyes and glasses; it is like the end of the world. They believe in glasses as they believe in God. One might as well try to tell them that there is no God as to tell them that glasses do not save eyes; that eyes never get better with glasses; that eyes do not even stay the same with glasses; that all eyes grow worse with glasses. Glasses seem so proper and right that it is hard to believe that they could be so improper and wrong, especially in cases of children and young people. They might not know better, but it seems that adults should know better.

No child or young person can wear glasses without being hurt, and not one of them can be hurt as much without glasses as they all can be hurt with glasses. It is bad enough that adults put on the first strong glasses too soon, wear them too much and change them too often. If one thinks he has to wear glasses for reasons other than real refractive eye trouble, he should wear plano lenses, as said before.

Even colored or sun glasses cannot be worn without becoming habit-forming, and hurting the eyes. Eyes need all the sunshine and light they can take to make and to keep the pupils of the eyes smaller. The smaller the pupils, the better they see and the safer the future. It takes lots of sunshine and light to make and to keep the pupils small. Colored or sun glasses are very soothing, but very harmful to the eyes. They may be worn at the north and south pole to prevent snow blindness, and they may be worn under the most extreme conditions elsewhere, but the trouble is that they are worn when there are no extreme conditions. They are left on when they should be off. Too many wear them for poor reasons, other than a need. We should shade our eyes from the direct sun, and use the car sun-visor for driving. Wearing colored or sun glasses today calls for regular glasses tomorrow. I, for one, would never wear them. Do not fear ultraviolet or infrared sun rays, except under the most unusual and extreme conditions. Above reasoning also applies to light tinted lenses.

Practically all eyemen can predict how eyes will go after the first glasses have been put on. They know about what changes of lenses will have to be made every year or two thereafter. In some cases, where such a change is not called for, the lenses prescribed were too strong the time before. Eyemen do not realize, and patients do not know that there is an "end of the line" with glasses, in middle age or past. It is too late then to do for the eyes what should have been done at a younger age.

If it were known what glasses do to the eyes of children and young people, the first glasses would never be put on. But none are told how their eyes will go after the first glasses have been put on, and few, if any, seem to care. None are born with severe eye troubles they have later in life from wearing glasses. Few would have severe eye troubles later in life if they had not resorted to glasses at a younger age. The very nature of glasses especially for children and young people, is only to artificially and temporarily relieve or make see, with whatever lenses it takes at the time of examination-never to prevent, improve, or cure the refractive or muscular eye condition. Any eyeman, pinned down, would have to admit that. Let anyone who thinks otherwise try to prove otherwise.

It is too easy for a child or young person to get glasses. They have some complaint about their eyes and the parents get panicky and rush to an eyeman, who has no trouble at all finding some kind of glasses to prescribe for wear. Then all concerned are satisfied that the glasses have solved the problem, and that everything is all right. If it were not so tragic, it would be a big joke on all concerned; but it is all too pitiful. The children and young people are the innocent victims, who themselves must pay the penalty for what was done for them. They asked for help, and were given harmful glasses. These children and young people caused their own eye trouble, and they needed discipline in the use of their eyes, not glasses.

The fault lies not with children and young people alone in this business of glasses for the masses. The fault also lies with their parents, school teachers, school nurses, schools of eyework (50,000 eyemen in our country alone), and certain organizations, supported by eyemen and the optical industry to the tune of millions of dollars a year. They promote the sale and wearing of glasses by urging in their pages of advertising to have the eyes examined at a very young age and often thereafter, assuming that the invariable remedy will be glasses, and changes of glasses for the masses. Parents do not think twice before getting glasses for their children. School teachers and school nurses should not urge or demand that students get glasses, unless they will also take the responsibility of what the glasses will do to the eyes, which they will not take. Schools of eyework teach only how to fit glasses; where the schools of eyework leave off is where I would begin.

The organizations mentioned above have impressive names that sound sincere, as if they were authorities on the subject, when they are no more than advertising agencies for the eyemen and the optical industry, to say nothing of being a lucrative livelihood for the personnel of these organizations. They too do not take any responsibility for what glasses do to the eyes of children and young people. Their business is to publish tricky advertising, urging the examination of eyes and promoting the sale and wearing of glasses by the masses.

If it were not for what happened to my own eyes at age of twelve and since, I would not be so sure of what I have to say against glasses, especially for the eyes of children.