How To Avoid Nearsightedness
Thinking is easy,
Acting is difficult,
and to put one's thoughts into action
is the most difficult thing in the world. - Goethe
Men live by their routines; and when these are called into question, they lose all power of normal judgment. They will listen to nothing save the echo of their own voices; all else becomes dangerous thoughts. - Harold Laski
The previous chapters have demonstrated, by test, that the eye is dynamic. The eye will change its focal state in a negative direction if placed in a confined environment, and will move in a positive direction (although more slowly) if placed in an open environment. It would be difficult to believe in the opposite possibility concerning the eye's behavior.
Logic, reason and science cannot prevail, until you look at the situation yourself. You must decide that you are willing to make the appropriate commitment to restore your vision to normal. You can achieve what other students, pilots and engineers have accomplished as described in the following letters.
Brian Severson was in an engineering college when he began to get into nearsightedness. In previous years Brian observed his brother become seriously nearsighted when he used a negative lens. He had received no information on prevention from the eye doctors he consulted. By his own understanding and perseverance, and some conversations with me, he returned his vision to normal as he describes in the following two letters.
Hi! I went out and bought a pair of +1.75 diopter reading glasses, and two days later my vision improved from 20/70 - 20/80 to 20/50 at an exam today. The Doctor wanted to sell me $500.00 worth of (Band-aid) lenses. What a ripoff! Please rush me your book. I enjoyed talking to your wife. I will keep you posted on my improvements. Someday when I get a real job that pays more than $10,000/year I will call and chat with you. Thanks again, Brian Severson P.S. I have a 1st class physical soon and need to improve my vision before then, or send $156 to my eye doctor for one replacement contact!
I'm sorry I have not taken the time to write or call you until now. On December 4, 1990, I passed a FAA 1st Class Physical and, under much less than ideal conditions, read 20/15 on the eye chart! Thank you for all you have done to help me. I have at least 15 pilots and friends now wearing reading glasses. I am one-quarter through the rough draft on my vision book, and I am slowly making progress. Is it still O.K. for me to plagiarize (with credit, of course) from your book? If so, please reply in writing with permission. Thanks & God bless, Brian Severson
From Jacob Raphaelson's experience with, "The Printer's Son", (Chapter 3), it has become clear that you must understand the bad results that occur when you use the negative lens. More than this, Jacob's analysis demonstrated that even a completely dedicated eye doctor can not overcome the popular misconceptions that exists in the public's mind about eye doctors and the use of the preventive lens.
I made a major effort to help my niece and nephew. They developed a clear understanding of the problem of nearsightedness and the type or solution that could be expected. I believe that providing them with a "fighting chance" to defeat the problem is better than providing no chance at all. Both used the plus lens and retained clear distant vision without prescription lenses. They understood that it would take long-term commitment to achieve the desired result. I asked my nephew to write a short note to describe his own effort and outcome as he worked to maintain clear distant vision through college.
Dear Uncle, February 19, 1990 Thank you very much for the book, "How to Avoid Nearsightedness". I got it yesterday after I came back from the weekend. I am looking forward to reading it soon, but for now I have a great deal of school work to read. I would imagine you'll be pleased to have me tell you that one of the first things I did after opening your book was to check my eyes with the eye chart. I am able to read the 20/20 line on the eye-chart. I have been using my drug store plus lenses most of the time now. I have always passed the driver's license eye test. I use these glasses nearly 100 percent of the time when I read text books and use them for about 70 percent of the total reading I do. I started using them as much as possible again because, at the end of last semester my sight was pretty bad (I didn't check them on a chart). I am lucky to have an uncle who showed me back in eighth grade that I could prevent my nearsightedness. One thing college has taught me is to listen to others and then use or adapt methods to work for me. In the last few years I have had a great deal more reading work to do. If I don't use the magnifying lenses I notice fairly quickly that my sight starts to deteriorate. Then I realize it's time to do something to stop that process. At the moment, I am wearing the magnifying lens because I know what it does for my vision. Thanks for taking the time to tell me how to avoid a situation, wearing glasses at all times for the rest of my life, that I would find unpleasant, and for sending me a copy of your book so I can learn more in-depth about the methods I am using. Keith B.
Perhaps the most surprising and encouraging result to be achieved was accomplished by accident. Because of my long-term experience with the experimental data, I knew that recovery -- on the average -- would be slow. Anyone who attempts to use the plus lens wants to succeed. It makes sense to help people who have gotten into about 20/80. Any improvement will get you to 20/50, which passes the FAA 3rd class flying license. Recovery, if you are worse than 20/100, is difficult but possible. To present all the facts including surprising results, I asked Dennis to write a letter describing his efforts and ultimate result.
My distance vision had been poor for many years. I had overheard Otis Brown discussing nearsightedness, and his suggested technique for restoring the myopic eye to normal. Without telling Otis, I decided to attempt to use the plus lens, and see what would happen, since the approach seemed reasonable and much safer than any other method.
I obtained a plus lens at a local store without a prescription. The lens was a +1.5 diopter lens and is commonly sold as a reading glass for people who have lost their near vision.
I had become nearsighted in grade school and was prescribed minus lenses which I dutifully wore all day long. As the years went by, my vision worsened, and the Doctor would prescribe stronger minus lens. My distance vision without prescription lenses was very bad through high school, college, and graduate school. The last professional check (Ophthalmologist) showed that my prescription was -4.5 diopters (Right eye) and -4.25 diopters (Left eye). This is approximately 20/320 vision using the Snellen eye chart. In some states, I would be classed as legally blind without my glasses.
As I wore the plus-lens and did not wear the minus lens, I noticed that my distance vision began to clear. After several weeks, I purchased Otis' book, and checked my eyes against the eye chart. They were 20/30, which means I will pass the standard driver's license criteria of 20/40 or better without prescription lenses.
Otis was surprised at this effect of the plus lens. He stated that most individuals could return their vision from 20/70 to 20/20, but he felt that returning vision from 20/320 to 20/30 was hard to believe. Since I have done it successfully, I have no doubt that other individuals who have a similar problem could obtain similar results using Otis' recommended method of vision restoration.
I am a registered professional engineer, and have a Master's degree in both Engineering and Business Administration.
I have retyped this letter from the original and changed the names. Jeanie's daughter started out (at age six) with 20/50. She received a strong minus lens -- even though 20/50 is acceptable for most children. After years of receiving minus lenses stronger than necessary, she received a lens increase from -6.0 to -10.0 diopters. Jeanie's suspicion and response is described in the following paragraphs.
Here are copies of my daughter's eye records and prescriptions. You will never know how grateful I am for you and Mr. Severson. When I stop and think of what could have happened to Shanna had I not found you -- my blood starts to boil. I have come to realize that people never question eye doctors as they do medical doctors. We are all at their mercy and do not even know it. You have my permission to give my telephone number to anyone who you feel needs it.
Shanna received the new contacts on August 5. She puts in -10.0 Diopter and is able to see -- she says one mile down the road. I immediately told her to take them out. After begging my optometrist to please give me information to stabilize her vision, he becomes EXTREMELY UPSET. I then went to the libraries and book stores looking for information but I found only William Bates' name. I then ordered his book. Next I found Mr. Severson and finally you in the back of his book. After reading your books I immediately knew I had the wrong optometrist -- so I nicely asked his assistance in obtaining a -6 Diopter lens for studying. The doctor reluctantly gave them to Shanna, telling us to use them for STUDYING ONLY. I then confirmed the focal status of Shanna's eye's, by assisting her in checking her vision against the eye chart -- both inside and outside. 8/26/95 20/20 -8.0 RE -7.5 LE 8/26/95 20/100 -6.0 RE -6.0 LE (Provided for reading) 8/31/95 20/40 -6.0 RE -6.0 LE 9/26/95 20/20 -6.0 RE -6.0 LE (See the -10.0 D prescription below) Since she was seeing so well on 9/26/95, I told her to remove her contacts and then come back outside. Without ANYTHING on she stood 20 feet away and could focus on the 20/70 and 20/50 line for about 2 or 3 seconds -- then she said it would flash or float away.
Prescription by Dr. Bob Smyeth, Optometrist, Dated 8/5/95: Patient: Shanna Brave, Birth Date, 3/2/82: 8/5/85 20/20 -10.0 RE -9.5 LE (Prescription)
In subsequent conversations with Jeanie, she stated that her nine year-old son was just starting into nearsightedness, and that she would do everything in her power to help her son with the proper use of the plus lens -- to avoid the catastrophic situation that had developed with her daughter. Jeanie wondered why this knowledge is not made generally available to the parents of young children.
It is clear that an intelligent, motivated pilot or student can use the plus lens for close work, check his eyes against the eye chart, and clear his vision back to normal.
What is the opinion of this situation within the eye profession? Opinions vary, as shown in the following exchange in the Washington Post newspaper.
- My family likes to watch TV at night with the rest of the room lights off. But a friend told me that watching TV in the dark is harmful to your eyes. Is this true?
- You can't harm your eyes by watching television in the dark. Neither can you damage them by reading, working or studying in dim light. Those are some of the many myths about why eyesight deteriorates.
Another folk belief is that "using your eyes too much" will harm vision. That's nonsense. Your eyes were made to see with and, barring some medical problem, they don't wear out from use.
Some people also believe that looking at objects close-up will impair vision, especially if done for long periods of time. Not true. Again, vision doesn't deteriorate from fine use. It's easy to see how some of these myths came about. In days past, before doctors knew about eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration, people looked for some explanation whenever someone lost their vision. Glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye, and cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. Macular degeneration is a condition where the center of the field of vision deteriorates.
Often, blindness or low vision was blamed on someone's work, such as writing or reading by candlelight or on simply using one's eyes too much.
Common eye diseases frequently struck people who did fine work with their eyes, leading to the belief that there was some connection between the two. People tended to ignore the many examples of people who didn't develop any problem with their eyesight or of all the people who lost their vision for no apparent reason.
As people age, they sometimes have trouble focusing on fine print that's too close to their eyes, a condition called presbyopia. But scientific studies don't show any link between the way you ordinarily use your eyes and harming your vision. So, you and your family don't have to worry about watching TV in the dark.
The Health Profession's Response to "Problems With Poor Vision".
Dr. Robert Levy:
I must strongly disagree with at least one "myth" about poor vision Dr. Jay Siwek mentions [Consultation, 9/11/91]. He says doing close work does not harm your eyes and then goes on to talk about three sight- threatening diseases. While it is true that close work does not cause the kinds of blindness that glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration do, such fine focusing for extended periods can cause nearsightedness, a far more common occurrence.
Day after day, year after year, I see patients who get more and more nearsighted from doing close work, particularly if they have been wearing a distance prescription while doing their close work. The vicious cycle is that you read and do your homework, become nearsighted, get distance [negative lens] glasses and when you go back to read and do your homework you become more nearsighted.
People who take their glasses off to read (if they can) or who wear bifocals [plus lenses] to reduce the prescription for near focusing show a much slower progression into nearsightedness than those who read with distance glasses on. One study of an Eskimo village being taught to read showed that after two generations of reading, virtually none of the grandparents' generation needed distance glasses, about half of the parents' generation did and virtually all of the children's generation did. This is the best example of reading and close work causing nearsightedness.
By Dr. Maurice Brumer, Frankston, 3199, Australia
. . . A succession of practicing optometrists have followed Fournet [a pioneer in the use of the plus lens] to this day, all convinced of this major shortcoming [use of a negative lens] in eye care. They have all been successfully ignored or treated as cranks and heretics, and the issue has remained at this level for 90 years. The clarion cry of the eye care professions has been "show us proof of the relationship of eyestrain and eye disease". I will now demonstrate that no shortage of this proof exists.
At the 1973 annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, a paper entitled, "Bifocal Control of Myopia", was presented by Francis Young, Director of the Primate Research Center at Washington State University, and Kenneth Oakley, an ophthalmologist from Bend, Oregon. Their study found that the effects of properly fitted bifocals (eye strain reducing glasses) on young myopes are to drop the rate of progression of this condition from an average of about one half a diopter per year to about on fortieth of a diopter per year. This study involved control and experimental subjects who were matched for age, sex, initial refractive error and duration of wearing bifocals so that most of the possible causes of failure to achieve results with bifocals were controlled.
There was a significant number of subjects, 226 in the bifocal group and 192 in the control group, to assure that the results were consistent and effective over time. The effect of the bifocal was uniformly to reduce the rate of progression even in children who had already achieved as much as 4 or 5 diopters of myopia before they were fitted with bifocals. In other words, the control group moved into myopia at a rate 20 times faster than the bifocal (plus lens) group. The implications of such results are obvious and sinister when it is considered that myopia is the third largest cause of blindness in western society.
The visual disability in high myopia is usually considerable. I am including this description of the condition as felt by its victims so that you may put yourself in their situation:
Apart from the visual incapacity, the high myope is not usually comfortable in the use of his eyes. When corrected, the small, sharply defined and bright images are annoying; much use of the eyes brings about a feeling of strain and fatigue. The degenerated and liquefied vitreous gives rise to a multitude of "muscae volitantes" and floating opacities, and these, throwing abnormally large images upon the retina owing to its backward displacement, cause a great deal of distress and anxiety to the patient although their actual significance is small. Most of these patients are naturally anxious. Their disability is obvious and may have excited sympathy. The memory of admonitions to care for the eyes lingers into adult life. Thus matters tend to progress slowly and relentlessly, the patient all the while never using his eyes with comfort or without anxiety until finally no useful vision may remain or until the occurrence of a sudden calamity such as a gross macular lesion, a hemorrhage of a retinal detachment brings about a more dramatic crisis. (I thank Sir Stewart Duke-Elder for this description).
The complications of myopia are numerous and grave, frequently resulting in blindness. The degenerative changes appear typically in adult life after the myopia has been fully established for some years.
The complications are:
- Choroidal thrombosis and hemorrhage.
- Vitreous opacity, always present in some degree in high myopia, this condition may suddenly increase to become a serious complication.
- Retinal detachment is the most dreaded and one of the most common complications of myopia, occurring with considerable frequency in = all degrees of the defect but showing a progressively greater tendency, the higher the myopia.
- Simple glaucoma is a further complication of high myopia, occurring = in the higher degrees after mid-life.
Few of these people faced with the prospect of blindness in old age realize that their problems actually began in childhood when they were fitted with their first pair of corrective [negative] lenses by someone who was probably unconcerned about the tragic, long-term results of that action. Few of these people realize how their situation became more precarious each time their glasses were strengthened and nothing was said about prevention. Now, when it is too late for prevention, they find themselves in the hands of surgeons who are making their living from someone else's mistakes by trying to patch up steadily deteriorating retinas. The patient has become a lifelong victim of ignorance and exploitation.
The cause of myopia is further clearly indicated in a study of 1200 Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska, published in the American Journal of Optometry in September, 1969, which showed that in one generation of the Eskimo population had moved from no myopia to approximately 65% myopia among the offspring, and that neither the grandparents nor parents over 40 had any myopia.
Thus the first generation between grandparents and parents was similar in that myopia was nonexistent, but in the second generation between the parents and their children, suddenly myopia occurs in a surprisingly high number of children. As a matter of fact, of 53 offspring who were in their early 20's, 88% had myopia. Such a sudden and great degree of change cannot readily be accounted for on the basis of heredity, especially when there has been no identifiable force which could have brought about this obviously considerable mutation in the genetic composition of the offspring.
The obvious difference between the parents and the children is the amount of near work which is currently being done by the children. About the time of the second World War, the white man intruded into their lives, requiring the development of education among a population which was uneducated and illiterate. The Eskimo has become an avid reader because of his environment. While he spends a great deal of time out-of-doors in the warmer, daylight summer months, he spends relatively little time out- of-doors in the cold, dark winter months.
In presenting these studies, I would emphasize that these represent only a small (even if spectacular) part of the evidence available today which demonstrates the blindness and suffering caused by present-day eye care. While continuing to ignore a massive body of evidence, the eye care professions continue to ask to be shown proof that myopia results from excessive close work and that the prescription of corrective lenses causes the myopia to increase more rapidly that it otherwise should. It is assumed from the start that the burden of proof is on us and that we are expected to raise money and conduct endless studies that will somehow convince everyone that we are right. In many cases, this is like trying to convince a tobacco company executive that smoking causes lung cancer. No amount of testing will convince those people who prefer to believe what pleases them most or what is more lucrative to them. . . .
[Dr. Brumer reviewed an exchange of letters with a Dr. Lender (a university optometrist) concerning disagreement about the fundamental behavior characteristic of the eye under experimental test conditions.]
. . . These letters represent a desperate attempt to cover up a tragic and horrible situation. They mislead the public and, significantly, the parliament of my country. They have been unsuccessful in their purpose, however, and the question now lies on notice in the parliament in Canberra to the Minister of Health for Dr. Klugman (opposition spokesman for health) asking him to appoint an inquiry into the matters I have raised.
The eye care professions have resisted change irrationally and fearfully, unwilling to admit that what has gone on before [the use of a negative lens] has been wrong and harmful, and by doing so they have unleashed on the public they serve a cataract of horror. This continued situation is a tragedy for the public and a disgrace for optometry. While it is understandable that optometrists will not find it easy to admit that what they have been doing is wrong and harmful, especially for those academic university optometrists responsible for the education of our graduates, to preserve the current horrors to protect our professional prestige and privilege is an abdication of our responsibilities, ethics and morality. I can make no apology for causing embarrassment to my professional colleagues. The interests of the public are paramount and must be served. The purpose of this paper is to direct the future to end the disgrace of the past.
Dr. Brumer had previously been denied permission to present his paper at the August, 1977 Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) Congress because it was too critical of the prevailing method of eye care. The above paper is of interest because of Dr. Maurice Brumer's scientific and ethical commitment to:
In 1974 Donald Rehm established an organization to help parents understand and take steps to help their children avoid myopia. He prepared a book that clarifies the various preventive methods available for myopia -- and the reaction of most of the profession to his efforts. Donald describes his effort to persuade the profession to provide you with exact knowledge of the eye so that you might capably choose between these mutually exclusive alternatives.
. . . Since the organizations in the eye care field were telling the public nothing about the true cause of myopia, the idea of forming an organization devoted solely to myopia began to seem more and more necessary. The final decision about forming a myopia prevention organization was made at the 1974 Annual Congress of the American Optometric Association in Washington, D. C.
An important part of such meetings takes place on a large floor where booths can be rented to exhibit optical goods, hand out literature, etc. I rented a booth to give out literature on the latest research on myopia and ways of preventing it. I found that the booth was for the most part ignored by most of the optometrists, although an adjoining booth, where the tinting of eyeglasses was being demonstrated, was usually crowded.
It was obvious that the people to whom we must go with our vision problems were more interested in tinting lenses than in saving sight. They were ignoring everything that had to do with myopia prevention. It was quite clear that pleading with the members of the eye care professions to change their ways was not going to succeed. They would have to be forced to change, and this would occur only after the public was well informed about the real causes and solutions to the problem of myopia.
In 1974, I therefore formed a nonprofit, tax-exempt Pennsylvania corporation, the International Myopia Prevention Association. One of the first tasks I undertook was the publication of a twelve page booklet, The Prevention of Acquired Myopia. This booklet, which was meant for distribution to the public, contained information on the real cause of myopia and what methods were available to prevent it. No booklet of this type had ever been published previously. In the booklet, I also stated the aims of the new organization:
As the formation of IMPA was announced in various optometric journals (it was ignored by the medical journals), I began to receive letters from doctors around the country expressing their interest in the new organization. The response was greater than I had anticipated and indicated clearly that there did exist an unfilled need for leadership in the area. . .
- To work for the widespread acceptance of the concept, now supported by numerous studies and research, that acquired myopia is caused by excessive close work and is not an inherited condition.
- To inform the public, in an impartial manner, about the various methods available for preventing and controlling myopia.
- To promote periodic testing of the vision of children so that the potential and beginning myopes can be found early when treatment is most effective.
- To promote the use of proper reading habits and adequate lighting in schools, homes and offices.
- To maintain a register of eye care practitioners who are interested in myopia prevention and skilled in its techniques. *
- To assist the public in coming into contact with these practitioners. *
- To issue a periodic publication to provide a summary of activities and new knowledge in this field.
- To maintain an advisory board of scientists, researchers, educators, optometrists and ophthalmologists who are involved with the myopia problem and can advise on the activities of the association.
- To solicit contributions to carry on educational and scientific activities related to myopia prevention." *
* In a later publication Donald Rehm sadly concluded, "We no longer try to maintain a list of prevention minded eye doctors since there are so few of them."
Donald's book may be obtained by ordering it through the above address. Please check his web site. Eyeglass wearers take note: The book, "The Myopia Myth -- The Truth About Nearsightedness and How To Prevent It", will undermine all that you have been led to believe about nearsightedness. Writing in matter-of- fact language and using some fifty simple, clearly marked diagrams, Donald Rehm presents a comprehensive over-view of just about everything you might want to know about myopia: prevailing myths about the subject (propagated, in large part, by your own eye doctor), real and fictitious causes of the problem, proper and improper methods of treatment, and how to know if your eye doctor is really helping you.
Beyond this point, your own ability to make a good judgment of the situation must be your guiding light. No one should dictate what you should or should not do. We can only assist you in understanding the facts -- so that you may make a reasonable decision about what course of action best suits your own personal needs.