Eye exercises for improved vision?

Originally Published: June 23, 2006
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Dear Alice,

My question is regarding eye exercises. I am short sighted and wear my glass constantly. Recently I came across some eye exercises which claim that they can help you restore your vision. Their reasons seem convincing. But if this were true, why do the majority of people with poor vision still wear glasses. I just want to know if it's possible to restore your vision by doing these exercises? If not, is there any other way to restore vision without undergoing surgery? Finally, is there any way to ensure that my eye sight does not get any worse?

Thank you,

Worried about Vision

Dear Worried about Vision,

It’s great that you are keeping an eye on your health and not believing everything you see. Some visual training exercises have been shown to help with certain eye disorders, such as double vision (diplopia) and lazy eye (amblyopia). However, there is little reliable evidence that proves that these exercises can actually improve nearsightedness, also known as myopia. Currently, the only established methods of correcting myopia are wearing corrective lenses (i.e., glasses and contact lenses) or undergoing surgery. 

Although you may not be able to restore your vision without surgery, there are still many ways to help ensure your vision doesn’t get worse. These include:

Healthy body, healthy eyes
Blindness is most often caused by diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, or linked to conditions that can damage nerve tissue, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Maintaining good overall health will help to ensure that the risk of damage to your eyes—as well as the rest of your body—remains low.

Doctor, my eyes…
Regular visits to your eye care professional will enable him or her to determine how your eyes are doing, as well as detect any signs of eye disease. Adults between the ages of 20 and 49 should visit an eye care specialist every three to five years.

Smoke gets in your eyes… literally.

Chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the macula, a very sensitive part of the eye. (The macula is responsible for our ability to see the fine details in vision tasks, such as reading.) If the cells of the macula die, or if tiny blood vessels burst in this area, a person's eyesight can become irreversibly damaged.

Here comes the sun!
UV rays from the sun and other sources can damage both the inner and outer parts of the eye, thereby increasing the risk of cataracts and other eye disorders that may lead to blindness. Simple yet effective ways of protecting your eyes during exposure to the sun’s rays include wearing sunglasses (preferably those with lenses that have built-in UV protection) or a hat with a large brim.

A carrot a day…
Carrots contain lots of Vitamin A, which your eyes use to turn light into nerve signals. (Broccoli, sweet potatoes, mangos, and liver are also rich in Vitamin A.) Vitamin A also helps to keep the outer membrane of the eye (the cornea) clear and plays a major role in night vision. 

Light up the room.
Reading with adequate amounts of light in the room means less strain on your eyes. Just don’t overdo it—too much light can be harmful to the very sensitive light receptor cells in your eyes.

Safety dance
Wear goggles and protective glasses when playing sports or working with an electric drill or other similar machinery. A foreign object in the eye, whether it is dust or an opponent’s elbow, can scratch or injure the eye and may cause severe damage.

For more tips on healthy vision, visit the American Optometric Association website or the National Eye Institute website.

Here’s looking at you kid,

Alice