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


What happened to my own eyes at the age of twelve is happening to the eyes of millions of children today. That was some sixty years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had no eye trouble before that. Living on a farm in Carroll, Iowa, the only comics we had in those days, were those in the Chicago Sunday Examiner newspaper. We did not have stacks of "comic" books, such as children and young people have today. With my head in my hands, on my elbows and on my stomach, I read the comics, lying on the floor. When I finished and got up, my vision was bleary-eyed and myopic. I figured out what caused it, but I did not report it to my parents. In those days, parents would not have paid any attention to it. A few did, consulting a poor eyeman of those days, and he fitted, or misfitted glasses. I remember a few who did that. They all grew worse and went into thicker and thicker lenses. But I quit what caused it, and without help of parents, eye doctor, drops, or glasses, my sight came back. Later on in my late teens, when I got into optics and studied for eyework, as students testing and examining each other's eyes, I found that my eyes were perfect.

I now know that if my parents had taken me to an eyeman, that he would have fitted, or misfitted me with nearsighted glasses, and if so, today my eyes would no doubt be of high diopter nearsightedness, possibly up to twenty-five diopters, all because I once used my eyes wrong by reading comics on the floor. I know now that it takes only a few minutes of using the eyes in the wrong manner to cause the first nearsightedness, and that keeping up such bad eye habits, with or without glasses, brings on progressive nearsightedness. Of course, it gets progressively worse faster and farther with glasses than without them.

Rather than allow even one child or young person to go nearsighted, it would be best to watch all of them carefully to prevent it in the first place, or improve it in the second place, if they have already been stricken. Discipline in the use of their eyes is what they need, not glasses. I will get back to my own case after the following.

As a typical case, a fifteen-year-old girl, a Miss A. was brought to me by her parents who knew me and my work, for an eye examination. She had never worn glasses. She was an honor student in high school, in high standing, and active in student activities. She was a bookworm. Her vision was 20/40. Dynamic skiametry was plus 2.00. Her Rx was minus .75; it was a case of pseudo-incipient myopia. I wanted to treat her case with corrective measures. She demanded glasses, stomping back and forth on the floor, saying she did not want to be a "sap;" she wanted to see like other boys and girls, with glasses. We could not reason with her. The parents weakened and had me go ahead with glasses, which I did. She was in her glory with her new glasses. I did not see her for some years. She went through high school and college, majoring in dramatics. I understood she was putting on shows in New York. Meanwhile she went to other eyemen.

Some eight years later, at the age of twenty-three, while she was visiting her parents she phoned me for an appointment. In checking her case then, her vision was 8/200, dynamic skiametry was minus 6.00, and her Rx was minus 7.75. All such cases go more or less that way, with glasses. She wanted to know if I could help her. I asked her how long she would be here; her answer was for three or four days. I thanked her for her confidence, but advised her that her case had gone so far that I would do well, if she would do what I asked to help her in three or four years, or more.

Since she could not stay, or do what I called for, I advised that the next best thing for her to do was to use her glasses as little as possible - only for emergencies or something important, and never for close work. Even then she was stubborn, and would not consider bifocals, or a reduced Rx. This was nine years ago. I shudder to think of what her Rx for nearsightedness is now. No doubt she has gone from progressive myopia into degenerative myopia.

Her case is typical, and shows how eyes go with bad eye habits, which she had, and glasses as the supposed remedy. Beginning nearsighted cases never realize this. All believe that glasses will solve their case and see them through life.

Citing this one case of beginning nearsightedness, and then its progressiveness, is citing all cases. They will all go that way, more or less. This should be an indictment against nearsighted glasses, whether there is a better way or not. She would not have gone as bad without glasses as she did with glasses. Many would improve or cure themselves if they stopped bad eye habits, and never, never resorted to glasses. Miss A. who did not want to be a "sap," turned out to be a "sap" by turning to her first glasses. No doubt my own case would have gone the same way.

I cite a typical case that did do as I directed; the case of John R.

I checked his eyes every year for seven years, from the ages of six to thirteen. His mother brought him in every year. For seven years he checked out as normal. I gave the usual advice of how he should use his eyes right and warned him not to use them wrong.

At the age of fourteen he came to me for his checkup alone, refusing to come if his mother came with him. He must have known something was wrong with his eyes, and did not want his mother to be there if there was. On this checkup, his eyes were 20/200, and it took minus 2.00 nearsighted lenses to make him see 20/20; dynamic skiametry was plus 1.00. He had acquired pseudo-myopia sometime during the past year. I stormed about it, questioned him closely, and phoned his mother. His mother made light of it, having full confidence in me, saying "What of it? You can correct it, can't you?" I said that I could if he would cooperate and be a good patient. I traced the cause of his acquired myopia to his doing the one thing I warned him not to do - keeping a stamp and coin collection. His parents allowed him to work on his collection lying on his stomach on the floor with no more light than that which came from the television screen, in a darkened room. He did as I advised, gave up the collection, and stopped all unnecessary close work. What close work he had to do I had him do at a distance, under lots of good incandescent light, looking up and away often, blinking and squeezing his eyes often, and I prescribed my corrective measures. However, I feel that he would have responded as he did even without my corrective measures, if he did as otherwise directed. In my case, my eyes did just that when I was his age.

In the two weeks time I set for his checkup, he was back to normal eyes, with 20/20 vision, and the dynamic skiametry findings were still plus 1.00, which I call normal. After regular checkups thereafter, in two weeks, and then once a month, he stayed normal. He is now twenty-one years old, and still normal. In fact, he passed the eye test for his military service.

His case is one of many that I could cite. If I had given him the minus 2.00 nearsighted lenses for wear, there is no doubt in my mind that his eyes would be minus 4.00, minus 6.00, or even higher diopter nearsighted today. He was saved from a life of misery with nearsighted glasses and progressive myopia. The same can be done for millions of other cases, if caught in time and before the first glasses have been put on.

Going back to my own case, after completing my studies in eyework, and becoming registered to practice in the State of Nebraska, I located in Kansas City, Missouri. At that time, Missouri had no State law governing the practice of optometry. Later I assisted in getting such a law, and became registered under it. I was associated as assistant to a well-known high-class optometrist, Dr. W., for five years. He had a high-class following and delivered eye service on a silver platter. I mention this to make a point.

Dr. W. knew the tricks of practicing eye work. The point I wish to bring out is about astigmatism, and how he used it. The same trick is still being used today by too many eyemen. Dr. W. would examine eyes and say as little as possible, knowing that sooner or later the patient would ask, "Well, Doctor, what did you find?"

Invariably Dr. W. would lean close to the patient, and in almost a whisper, he would say, "You have astigmatism," whether the patient had it or not. That did it. No more questions asked. It clinched the sale and wearing of glasses without further argument.

No doubt the patients were horrified, thinking that astigmatism was some kind of a disease or twist of the eyeballs, and that glasses would remedy it. Most of them had no astigmatism at all. In those days fifty years ago, fewer turned to glasses, and of those who did most of the cases were of the farsighted variety. There were very few nearsighted cases then. Nowadays most cases are nearsighted and fewer farsighted, with or without more or less astigmatism.

After five years of internship with Dr. W. I started out on my own. As I said, my own eyes were perfect, but because I was in the business, and to make an impression, I thought I myself should wear glasses. Since some kind of lenses can be fitted for any kind of eyes. I fitted myself with mild farsighted lenses plus .50, plus .50, axis 90. I could see as well or better without them, but as I had been taught, I thought the plus lenses would help my eyes. I also grew a mustache (it was reddish) and I wore a phony diamond ring. I was subject to headaches before I put on my first glasses, and also after as well.

I changed my lenses often, to supposedly keep them up-to-date, up to plus 1.50, plus .50, axis 90. During all this time I thought, as I had been taught, that my eyes were getting better, because I could accept more plus lens power, when in fact I was growing worse. This went on over a period of ten years, up to the age of thirty-five.

Up to that time I was loyal and faithful to glasses as a supposed panacea for eyes, as I had been taught, and as all eyemen were taught. However, I was always concerned and puzzled about nearsightedness, and the way the eyes grew worse every year or two. In those days I tried to give orthoptic vision treatment, in an effort to prevent incipient and pseudo-nearsightedness and glasses. Even then, while not knowing the cause of nearsightedness or why it became worse with glasses, I was able to prevent and improve some cases, giving credit to the prism orthoptics, when I should have given the credit to something else.

After taking my treatments, patients would say that they thought their eyes were so much better that they did not feel the need of glasses. This I could not understand then, as I was not trying to remove glasses. I thought I was only trying to improve the muscular imbalance, along with the wearing of glasses. However, all became clear to me later, after discovering the key or clue, and working out by research what I call my own theory and method for eyes, which we should have had many years ago, instead of what we have had.

Later in life, when I was thirty-five years old, and wearing plus 1.50, plus .50, axis 90, my dynamic skiametry findings had. to be over plus 2.00, and I had headaches. When I found out the truth and the key to the cause of my eye troubles, and why glasses are wrong, I dropped glasses like I would a hot poker. By doing just that alone, I could notice and feel my eyes improving at once. Instead of wearing farsighted astigmatic glasses, I let my own eyes become active, allowing my own accommodation to overcome my acquired weakness, and had no trouble getting along without glasses.

Then to step up my improvement, I used corrective measures on my own eyes. I figured out what my corrective measures should be, how they would work, how they would feel in my own eyes, and what they would do. It worked exactly as I figured. In fact, I experimented in my own case, and used ten times more powerful corrective measures than necessary, to prove to myself that it was safe and scientific. As a result, I built up a powerful pair of eyes, with super vision both far and near. Suddenly one day my headaches were gone, and I had the grandest feeling in my eyes and head as never before, and it has lasted ever since - some forty years with no glasses, at my present age of seventy-five years.

It so happened that I caught my own eyes in the nick of time. Another one or two years might have been too late for me to prove my own theory and method to myself, in my case.

This can be done for all such cases as mine - farsightedness - if caught in time. I know where my own eyes would be today if I had not done what I did in time. I would be wearing plus 2.00 or plus 3.00 diopters or more, for distance, with a plus 2.50 bifocal for near sight, all the time. In other words, I would have a dead eye, as far as eye-focusing or accommodating is concerned, like so many of our older people of today. However, I cannot do for the older people of today what I did for myself. It is too late for them; their eyes are set in their weakness. I have to resort to prescribing glasses for them, done in my own way. As for myself, I would not take a million for my own eyes, if I had to go back to where I was before and would be today, but it is not too late to improve or cure the eye troubles of children and young people.

While I have enjoyed perfect vision in each eye, and comfort without glasses for the past forty years, at my age of seventy-five I have to watch my eyes to keep from going nearsighted. I do a lot of reading, and there are times, when I look up and away, that my distant vision is blurred, meaning that I have been reading too hard, too close, and too long, without looking up and away often enough. When this happens I stop reading until my distant vision clears up. I help it clear up by blinking and squeezing my eyes. I said before that only children and young people go nearsighted from bad eye habits in all close work done in the wrong way, but it could happen to one in many adults who use their eyes wrong, as children and young people do. I do it often, experimenting on my own eyes to see how long I have to read to do it. Then I stop reading long enough to see how long it takes to return to normal. If I resorted to nearsighted glasses for the temporary nearsightedness I brought on myself, the nearsightedness would become locked and permanent, and get progressive from there.

Such happenings to my own eyes could happen to some other adults. Since they do not understand what happened, as I do, they resort to nearsighted glasses, get worse from there, and wonder why. No adult should resort to nearsighted glasses. It is bad enough for children and young people to do it. By nature, adults should stay normal, or go farsighted for distance, with possibly presbyopia (age sight past the age of forty) for near. It is more unnatural for an adult to go nearsighted than it is for children and young people. Age and time will help an adult's eyes to return toward normal, if the bad eye habits were stopped long enough to do it. To keep it from happening again, adults should hold their close work farther away, under good direct incandescent light, and look up and away often. If adults would do as I do, they could control their eyes as I control mine.

Following is how I discovered the key clue to my theory and method, forty years ago. This was a case of pseudomyopia; a Miss Y, age twenty, occupation secretary, visual acuity 20/30. RX minus .50* dynamic skiametry plus 2.00, symptoms: headaches. Esophoria 6° at 13" and 12° at 20 ft. With orthoptics, using prism base in, I was trying to tone down the extrinsic muscles to improve the esophoria, and thereby eliminate the pseudo-myopia, or need for glasses.

* Minus .50 is a very mild nearsighted lens.

I had given only a few orthoptic treatments when one day my phone rang. The caller was a Dr. X, an ophthalmologist, saying that my patient, Miss Y, was in his office with her girl friend, to whom he was delivering glasses he had fitted for her. Dr. X said my patient allowed him to go over her eyes, and he reported that he found Miss Y should have minus .50 glasses, the same RX I found but I would not fit at the time, which I told Dr. X. He asked me why I would not prescribe it. I told him that Miss Y's dynamic skiametry findings were plus 2.00, and that I was giving her orthoptic treatment, etc., and that if the minus .50 was prescribed for Miss Y, he would have to do it. He said something that gave me the key or clue I am telling about. He said that with wearing the minus .50 for a week or two, the dynamic skiametry plus 2.00 findings would be gone. There is something for eyemen to think about. It could lead to a radical and revolutionary change in ophthalmological and optometrical eye work.

While Dr. X did not realize what he said, which was true, it struck me then and there as the key to what turned out to be my own theory and method for eyes. Without saying any more than I had to, I got off the phone as quickly as I could and my head started to swim. I thought, "What did he say? Why did he not realize what he meant?" etc. etc. Little did he realize what he had said.

To this day he does not know that he gave me the key to my own theory and method. I would urge others to read that again, slowly, and see if it does not give them the key it gave me. But it was the Dr. X phone call which made this book possible.

In the case of Miss Y, I reasoned that she came to me because of her symptoms of pain, strain, and headaches, not because she couldn't see perfectly at a distance. What she needed, instead of glasses, was discipline in the use of her eyes in all close work. She had just started working as a secretary, and being too conscientious about her job, she did her work the hard way - too hard, too close, too long, without looking up and away, which was the cause of her headache symptoms. Easing up on the close work which would have improved or cured her symptoms of headaches, and therefore there was no need for the minus .50 glasses.

I cannot go into detail concerning the thoughts that came to me from what Dr. X said; I will only mention a few. What he said was that the minus .50 for wear would eliminate or cure the plus 2.00 dynamic skiametry findings. I reasoned that is what the minus .50 would do, but how? What became of the plus 2.00 dynamic skiametry findings? Something had to take place, and change. I reasoned that this was eliminating the plus 2.00 skiametry findings, and creating a worse condition. To think that the wearing of minus .50 would do that, and it would, meaning the refractive media of the eyes would have to become permanently 2 diopters more convex, and that the circular ciliary muscles would have to become stronger than they were before - too strong.

But where would more convexity take place? It would have to be in the crystalline lens, or possible the cornea. I could not believe that it could be the crystalline lens becoming permanently 2 diopters more convex; it had to be the cornea.

Then I began to doubt that the crystalline lens was the media of accommodation of the eyes, and thought that the cornea had to be that media. However, whatever media one cares to believe to be the media of accommodation makes little difference. The fact is that some refractive media of the eyes had to become 2 diopters more convex, in the case of Miss Y, to eliminate the plus 2.00 dynamic skiametry findings. The same is true of all other cases of incipient or pseudo - nearsightedness, before the first glasses have been put on. All such cases were once plus dynamic skiametry findings before they changed to nearsightedness.

As said before, nearsighted glasses eliminate the dynamic skiametry findings while creating a worse condition, that of nearsightedness and progressive nearsightedness. I reasoned that there must be a way to improve the eyes without creating a worse condition. There is a way. I explained it previously; to discipline the patient in the use of his eyes and never resort to glasses. There are corrective measures to be given in cases that need more than discipline. But discipline and no glasses alone will help improve most cases.

Students should get the cooperation of the teachers and the school nurse, sit in or near the front row at school, and in severe cases get permission to walk up to the blackboard, if necessary, to see. Allow no teacher or school nurse to demand that the student get glasses for any reason.

Teachers should spend at least a few minutes every day in all classes up to university level, teaching students how to use their eyes right, to do all close work correctly, and to look up and away often, plus how not to use the eyes wrong, and see that students do it.

Teachers should write large, and plainly on the blackboard, keep it clean for good contrast, and see that there is no glare on it. Glare does not hurt eyes, but students cannot see through it. The students then tell their parents they could not see the blackboard that day, but the students did not say there was a glare on it, or that the board was not black, or that the teacher did not write plainly or large enough.

School nurses should do no more than screen the vision of students, and without comment or advice. As said before, no one should urge another to get glasses unless that one will take the responsibility of what the glasses do to the eyes. On the contrary, eyes are doing so badly with glasses that those who wear them should warn others not to wear them.

There are those who will say that students have to learn and get their education. That is true. But they can do that and save their eyes at the same time by doing it right. An honor student is one at the head of his class, with normal eyes. One at the head of his class with glasses is not an honor student. He hurt his own eyes trying to excel over others. It would be better to be the poorest student with the best eyes, than to be the best student with the poorest eyes. But no student has to hurt his eyes to get his education. All should do all close work right all the time. Some students can go nearsighted just by doing a minimum of close work in the wrong way.

Nature never intended that children and young people should wear glasses. It is bad enough that adults of the past and present generation had to resort to glasses. It is too late for them to do what they should have done at a younger age, in order to have better eyes at an older age. However, the future generations of adults could have better eyes than those of yesterday and today, if they use their eyes right and do not resort to glasses, at a young age.

But children and young people are told that if they wear glasses at a younger age, they will have better eyes at an older age. That just does not make sense. Glasses can fool the young patient, and their parents, teachers, and school nurse, but glasses cannot fool the eyes. Their eyes will be just what glasses make them, and that is anything but good. Their eyes will conform to practically any lens, or glasses, that are put before them for wear. If eyes can conform to something, they can also conform toward normal. This is what nature really intended for them.

As an example or two of how glasses are looked upon. not only by adults but even by children, the one in this instance is a four-year-old little girl who spends much time at our home. She is as cute as they get, and smarter than others of her age. One evening at dinner she was listening to what I was telling my wife about a lady patient in her forties, well-dressed, attractive, who was led into my office by her husband for an eye examination that day. The lady patient had a brand new pair of glasses, fitted by a reputable clinician, with which she could not see. Without going into the findings of her case, other than to say that her eyes looked clear and normal but she could not see, nor could I make her see with lenses, and that her sight had been failing for the last year or so, I had my suspicions as to the cause. The point I wish to bring out is that when telling my wife that the patient was practically blind and that I could no nothing for her, the little four-year-old girl suddenly blurted out, "Well, if she couldn't see, why didn't you give her glasses?" - As if glasses would make the blind see! But the little girl really thought that a pair of glasses would solve the problem. Where she got the idea that glasses would do that I'll never know.

Another case is that of a seven-year-old girl from Alliance, Nebraska. Her parents were with her and her father, a dentist, wore glasses. The girl had worn glasses for several years. In my examination I found that she had perfect eyes, and did not need glasses or corrective measures. She was a malingerer, wearing glasses for poor reasons other than real refractive eye trouble. She loved her glasses. I ridiculed the wearing of glasses so much that the father reached up and removed his own glasses, putting them in his pocket case. But the little girl was not so impressed, or was not hearing what I had to say. Suddenly, to try to justify her wearing of glasses, she blurted out, "What about my. astigmatism?" - as if glasses were a perfect remedy for astigmatism, which she did not have.

It's pretty tough when one has to fight children as well as adults in trying to prove a better theory and method for eyes, or just proving glasses to be wrong for children and young people, whether there is a better way or not. The above two cases are typical of most children and young people, as well as some adults who want to believe in glasses, right or wrong.

One might wonder - if glasses were not intended for wear, what were optical lenses intended for? Primarily, optical lenses were intended to be used in the examination of eyes, to determine and to measure the refractive and muscular eye condition. Knowing that, with the proper theory and method corrective measures could then be directed and advised. Prescribing the lenses found by the objective or subjective test in the eye examination for wear is doing less than nothing. It would be better to leave the patient alone. If there are some things they cannot do, they cannot do them until their eyes improve enough to do them.

Prescribing of plus glasses stops the development of weak or farsighted eyes, and minus glasses overdevelop the already overdeveloped nearsighted eyes. If left alone, weak or farsighted eyes will develop toward normalcy by natural use. Some of them will even overdevelop into nearsightedness. This overdeveloping could be prevented by watching, directing, advising, and warning. Nearsighted eyes, too strong, will relax, or undevelop toward normal over a period of time without glasses, if left alone. There may not be quick cures in bad cases, but there would be improvement in all cases.