Can You Improve Eyesight Without Surgery?

a woman in glasses with an eye chart

Are natural vision correction methods a viable option to avoid surgery and still get rid of your glasses and contact lenses for good?

LASIK eye surgery has gone from being a ‘promising, new technology’ in the 1990’s to a rather common procedure today.  As of 2009, over 28 million LASIK procedures had been performed worldwide.  With the cost of refractive surgery becoming more and more affordable, that number should only grow over the next decade.

Surgery isn’t for everyone, however, and that prompts questions about the efficacy of non-surgical techniques for vision improvement.

The desire for permanent vision correction without the need for corrective lenses dates back nearly a century to the work of Dr. William H. Bates.  The ‘Bates Method’ postulates that vision improvement can result from a ‘radical re-training’ of how the eye is used to see.

This method still has its practitioners today, and other eye care experts concede its theoretical validity though question it’s implementation.  The Bates Method was the first attempt at correcting vision outside of accepted medical procedure but it’s far from the last.

Here are some of the most popular methods of natural vision correction:

1. EYE EXERCISES: Dr. Bates’ methods had few proponents during his lifetime, but today eye exercises are a very popular method to try and improve eyesight without surgery.  There are countless individual theories about which exercises should be used to achieve this, but most base their effectiveness on their ability to strengthen the eyes and make the eyes ‘more flexible’.

2. VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamins and supplements are big business in the United States, so it comes as no surprise there are advocates who support using them to improve vision.  Some of the most widely recommended for optical enhancement are Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene, Omega 3 fatty acids, and Lutine among many others.

Others believe supplements are nothing more than a diet revamp with the intention of increasing the intake of similar nutrients.  There has been little medical research into the solvency of these vitamins and supplements for vision improvement.  However, vitamins and supplements have shown effectiveness in clinical research at improving certain types of age-related macular degeneration.

3. ORTHO-K: Orthokeratology (aka ‘Ortho-K’) is the treatment of specific types of vision impairment with lenses (similar to contacts) worn on the eyes overnight.  The difference is in the methodology: Ortho-K lenses gently reshape the corneal tissue so the wearer can see clearly without the need for corrective lenses during the day.  Other similar treatment methods also fall under the general term ‘corneal reshaping lenses’.

Eye care professionals don’t market Ortho-K as a ‘cure all’, but for specific types of poor vision (light to moderate nearsightedness for example), it has shown effectiveness.

So Is It Really Possible To Improve Vision Without Surgery?

There are plenty of eye care professionals that express enthusiasm over one or more of these methods.  They often cite extensive ‘anecdotal evidence’ from their patients which suggests a positive correlation may exist.  Unfortunately, there is little scientific or medical evidence to support the efficacy of natural methods.

Even some organizations of eye care professionals (specifically the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology) have the official position that natural methods don’t work.  Their research suggests a ‘placebo effect’ might be in play, but in most cases there was only negligible evidence of any causal relationship between these methods and vision improvement.

That leaves a clear ideological schism within the eye care profession.  Some remain proponents of natural vision correction methods primarily due to their first-hand clinical experience.  Others within the eye care profession blame themselves, saying that standard procedure toward natural remedies has been tolerance for way too long.

Even when natural methods of vision improvement produced no positive results, the eye care profession often gave them little attention as long as they weren’t harmful to the eyes.  In retrospect, it is argued, eye doctors should have been questioning their validity all along.

This division of opinion is a good summation of non-surgical alternatives for vision improvement: there are plenty of promising concepts, but virtually no scientific proof.  The debate continues…


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