Eye exercises are sometimes used in an attempt to correct vision problems. Different views exist regarding the extent of their effectiveness.
Traditional mainstream ophthalmologists
use eye exercises (orthoptics
) to treat a limited range of problems, particularly problems involving muscular imbalances and problems with coordination of eye movement between the two eyes.
(from the Greek words ortho
meaning "straight", and optikas
) is the discipline dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of defective eye coordination, binocular vision
, and functional amblyopia
by non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical methods, e.g., glasses, prisms, exercises. The goal of orthoptics is to improve comfort and efficiency of binocular function.
Orthoptists and ophthalmologists introduced a wide variety of techniques for the improvement of binocular function in the first half of the twentieth century. The first pioneer was Mary Maddox, the daughter of an English ophthalmologist.
Orthoptics is usually studied as a primary degree or as a 2 to 4 years post graduate training course, including both theoretical and practical training. Orthoptists usually work in close cooperation with ophthalmologists, pediatricians
, and sometimes neurologists
The practice of orthoptics has evolved beyond the realm of orthoptic exercises. Orthoptists employed around the world now spend the majority of their day assessing, diagnosing and managing patients with eye muscle disorders. Traditional orthoptic exercise programs are still employed when appropriate. Orthoptists work closely with ophthalmologists to ensure that patients with eye muscle disorders are exposed to a full range of treatment options. These additional options include optical, medical and surgical treatment.
- Near point of convergence exercises (i.e. "pencil push-ups")
- Convergence training - Base-out prism reading, stereogram cards, computerized training programs are used to improve fusional convergence.
and optometric vision therapists
are licensed, credentialed doctors of optometry or their trained staff, who specialize in vision therapy
that involves eye exercises. They hold that such exercises are useful in improving a wide range of visual conditions, including focusing problems. The methods used are backed by clinical studies and publications in peer-reviewed journals, but are widely regarded with skepticism by ophthalmologists.
In 2006, neurologist Oliver Sacks published an anecdotal case study about "Stereo Sue", a woman who had regained her stereo vision, absent for 25 years, after undergoing vision therapy. Sacks does not detail exactly what exercise regime was followed by "Sue".
Other forms of eye exercise
eye exercises are claimed by some to improve visual acuity
by reducing or eliminating refractive errors
. Such claims rely mainly on anecdotal evidence
, and are not generally endorsed by ophthalmologists or optometrists. Such "exercises" include "clock rotation", "eye rolls", "near/far focusing", and looking at a Tibetan eye chart
" books and programs promoting these exercises should not be confused with vision therapy, which is always directed and supervised by a professional.
A 2005 review of the literature on eye exercises concluded that: "Small controlled trials and a large number of cases support"
the use of eye exercises in "treatment of convergence insufficiency. Less robust, but believable, evidence indicates visual training may be useful in developing fine stereoscopic skills and improving visual field remnants after brain damage."
However, the report also concluded that "no clear scientific evidence"
exists for the efficacy of eye exercises in the treatment of "ocular motility disorders, accommodative dysfunction, amblyopia, learning disabilities, dyslexia, asthenopia, myopia, motion sickness, sports performance, ... visual acuity, and general well-being."