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Natural vision correction & The Bates Method

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Claims you can improve your vision with simple eye exercises and without the need for glasses, contact lenses, drugs, or surgery have been around for decades.

It's an appealing idea but there is no research to back it up, and most experts consider the claims to be bogus and some of the techniques dangerous.

What is natural vision correction?

Natural vision correction is an alternative therapy and most practitioners base their approach on the Bates Method.

This was pioneered almost 100 years ago (1919) by Dr William Bates, an ophthalmologist and author of 'The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses'. He believed the cause of short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and other refractive errors was tension, and that relaxing the eyes would allow them to function normally.

The Bates Method believes that vision is affected by the mind, body, emotions, and reaction to stress. The emphasis is on using the eyes and mind in a relaxed and natural way. Those who use it are encouraged to do eye exercises, including palming (covering closed eyes with your palms) and sunning (guiding a light source directly onto closed eyes), and to do without their glasses.

Followers of Bates claim all the conditions normally corrected by glasses can be eliminated, and some even say the method can help or eliminate serious eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Teachers of the Bates Method charge in the range of £30 - £75 an hour.

Others believers in natural vision correction use eye exercises, eye patches, eye massages, and nutritional supplements, but reject some of Bates ideas, like sunning, and are also happy to work alongside conventional and licensed optometrists (people who are not doctors, but are trained to evaluate vision and the health of the eye, as well as to prescribe glasses and contact lenses) or ophthalmologists (medically trained doctors who have specialist training in conditions related to the eye).

Does it work?

Practitioners of natural vision correction may have what appear to be convincing anecdotal testimonials from patients, but the Bates Method is not taught in accredited schools of optometry and is not recognised by professional ophthalmology or optometry organisations.

The UK based Association of Optometrists (AOP), with more than 17,000 members, does not support the use of the Bates Method and would always recommend that patients seek professional advice. It says it is unaware of any scientific evidence to suggest that the Bates Method is effective, and goes further by saying solarisation or sunning, is dangerous and could lead to retinal damage in the form of a solar retinopathy.

In 2002, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) published its opinion on visual training programmes to improve eyesight. It found no evidence that they had any effect on the progression of short-sightedness, or that it improved visual function for patients with long-sightedness or astigmatism, or that it improved vision lost because of diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.

It concluded the only risk of visual training was financial, and that glasses and contact lenses may be a nuisance, but they work.

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