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Eye Exercises Separating Fact from Fiction

July 20, 2018

It wasn’t that many years ago that you could turn on the TV to find an infomercial host selling eye exercise programs that claimed to improve near- or far-sighted vision or to correct it altogether. The persuasive sales tactics (that invariably included the glowing testimonials of “actual customers”) often left consumers wondering whether there was something to it or if it was just a bunch of hype.

Whether consumers believed that eye exercises actually could improve vision or that the claims were bogus, they were right. Let us explain:

While eye exercises can’t change the actual anatomy of the eye in such a way as to significantly improve nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or most other vision problems, there are certain vision-health conditions that can be successfully treated with eye exercises.

In fact, there is an entire sphere of vision health, called orthoptics, devoted to doing exactly this. Orthoptics (often known as vision therapy) is used not to alter visual anatomy but rather to improve the eye’s functional capacities. According to Wikipedia, orthoptics achieves its therapeutic effect by “improving vision skills such as eye movement control, eye coordination, contrast sensitivity, and perception.”

Orthoptics is used in treating vision conditions like amblyopia (“lazy eye”) and many binocular vision anomalies (conditions in which the activities of the two eyes are not properly “synced”), including accommodative disorders, vergence disorders, eye movement disorders, and stereopsis (“cross eyes”).

Once any one of these conditions is diagnosed by a vision health professional, a series of eye exercises can be prescribed to improve or correct them.

Even in the absence of these particular conditions, simple eye exercises can help to ease digital eye strain, which is most typically experienced by those who spend long hours staring at their digital devices. 

“Our eyes are not built to stare at digital screens all day,” says Justin Bazan, OD, adviser for The Vision Council. “The modern-day world we live in is one in which we are frequently in front of a computer, working from our smartphones and reading on our tablets for hours on end. For many of us, this leads to tired, sore, and fatigued eyes, and even headaches. Some of us may experience problems focusing. These are symptoms of digital eye strain.”

A recent report on digital eye strain by The Vision Council, titled Hindsight is 20/20/20, defines digital eye strain as “the physical discomfort felt by many individuals after two or more hours in front of a digital screen.” The report cites multiple symptoms associated with excessive use of digital devices, including eyestrain (32.8 percent of persons surveyed); neck, shoulder, and back pain (32.6 percent); headache (24 percent); blurred vision (23.3 percent); and dry eyes (22.8 percent).

To ease digital eye strain, practice these two simple exercises:

  1. Every 20 minutes or so, turn your gaze to an object at least 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. (Eyecare professionals commonly refer to this exercise as the “20/20/20 rule.”)  Shifting your gaze to a distant object relaxes the focus muscle within the eye, thereby reducing focusing fatigue.
  2. Look at a distant object for 10-15 seconds, then shift your gaze to a near object for 10-15 seconds. “Toggle” your vision back and forth 10-15 times. This exercise essentially puts the focusing muscle in the eye through a full range of motion, preventing it from “locking up,” or going into what in clinical terms is known as an “accommodative spasm.”

If something is not feeling quite right with your eyes or if you’re looking for corrective eyewear or even permanent vision correction, we at OCLI can help! We’re full-service vision health providers who make it our business to ensure you have happy and healthy eyes, by delivering the friendliest, most comprehensive, and most advanced eyecare available! We’d love to hear from you, and we invite you to give us a call today!

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