Is Nearsightedness a Reversible Condition?

nearsightednessMyopia (nearsightedness) is an extremely common condition, and in some places, wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses are now the norm rather than the exception. However, it hasn’t always been this way. We don’t have to go back more than 40-50 years to understand that the prevalence of this condition has increased dramatically over a very short time period. In combination with the fact that myopia is virtually unheard of in primitive, illiterate populations, this suggests that environmental factors play a significant etiological role. Clearly, genetics is also important, but there’s no doubt that there’s something about our environment that is driving the increased rates of nearsightedness. Reduced exposure to sunlight, circadian disorganization, diet, computer work, and excessive reading are some of the key contributing factors, and it’s therefore no surprise that myopia rates are highest among students, office workers, and other individuals who spend a lot of time reading and looking at the computer screen. The traditional approach to dealing with myopia is to simply use corrective lenses, but as we know, contact lenses and glasses do nothing to actually treat the disorder. Actually, they might even make the nearsightedness worse. Another option is to perform corrective eye surgery, but this procedure also poses some concerns, especially regarding price, safety, and long-term effects. Is there another more “natural” treatment option out there?

My story with myopia

I’ve been using contact lenses for more than 10 years. At first, my myopia started out as a relatively mild condition, and I was long hesitant about going to the optician to get it checked. I was simply very afraid of having to wear glasses for the rest of my life, and for me, the idea of using corrective lenses was synonymous with admitting that something about me was “flawed”. Yes, I know this whole idea might seem strange as we know that so many people in the world today use eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, I think I always had the idea in the back of my head that poor vision, dental arch deformities (I also had to wear braces), overweight, and other common disorders are not a natural part of human life.

At the time I spent a lot of my time playing sports and doing physical activities, and I hung out with guys who had no issues with their vision whatsoever. In a competitive environment like that, you don’t want to be the one guy who shows up at soccer practise with eyeglasses (at the time I wasn’t really sure whether contact lenses was an option for me). However, as my vision got worse, I had to take the inevitable trip down to the optician where I got my eyesight checked and was relieved to hear that although I had some issues besides being nearsighted, contact lenses was an option for me.

When I first started wearing corrective lenses I realised that my fears were largely unfounded: It wasn’t that much of a hassle to put them in every morning, and since I was wearing disposable contacts, I could just take them out before bed. However, a couple of issues emerged. My eyes were definitely dryer than before, and perhaps most disturbingly, my vision kept getting worse. Each time I got my sight checked (typically once a year) I had to increase my prescription strength. At the time I thought this was just how myopia develops when you’re relatively young, but I’m now questioning whether the use of contact lenses might have contributed to the progressive worsening. Although looking into myopia has been on my to-do list for a long time, it wasn’t until I checked out the lineup of speakers for this years Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) and saw that one of the talks were called “Myopia: A modern yet reversible disease” that I really started to consider the idea that nearsightedness might be a treatable condition…

A mismatch disease

When you start to dig into the literature/science and really begin to think critically about things, you discover that so many of the beliefs we hold about health (and many other aspects of our lives for that matter) are just plain wrong. Most of the time, medical practitioners treat symptoms, not disease. Of course, the patients are largely to blame for this superficial and simplistic approach, as most people want to get immediate satisfaction rather than having to stay patient and slowly work on improving their disorder by changing their lifestyle. However, what really surprises me is how few dermatologists, orthodonists, GPs, and other health practitioners who stay up-to-date on the research and actually question things.

  • Why are conditions such as acne vulgaris virtually unheard of in hunter-gatherer populations (1), while virtually every kid in the western world gets acne one time or another?
  • Why do so many people in the modern world “need” dental braces, while traditional indigenous populations have perfect teeth?
  • How do contact lenses affect your vision over time? Are we entering into a vicious cycle when we use corrective lenses to bring everything closer so that distant objects are within the range of focus?

Instead of asking these questions and trying to get to the root of what is really going on, most health practitioners rather just opt for the simple approach of masking or treating the symptoms. In the case of acne vulgaris, patients are given some benzoyl peroxide and oral antibiotics and sent home – or in some cases prescribed the dangerous drug isotretinoin. What all of these treatments have in common is that they target the symptoms, not the underlying inflammation that is at the root of this disease. Antibiotics wipe out bacteria that are responsible for triggering inflammatory processes, benzoyl peroxide acts directly on the skin, and isotretinoin dries up the sebaceous glands. However, as soon as the treatment is over, most people generally see their acne return – even sometimes when they use the powerful drug isotretinoin.

What about dental braces? I had them for years as a child, and at the time I never really questioned why so many people need orthodontic appliances – I probably just thought it was an inherent flaw of the human body. However, I know now better. Isolated, non-modernized populations eating ancestral or traditional diets have perfect teeth compared to the modern man (Some exceptions exist) (3,4,5). Why? Many theories have been proposed, but diet is at the center of the most plausible ones. Basically, a refined diet rich in sugar (and starches?) and low in roughage/fiber (something to chew on) seems to be one of the primary causes of tooth decay, misaligned teeth, and dental arch deformities (3,4,5). That’s not to say I believe you can treat malocclusion and overbite by simply changing your diet (how does your diet affect your children’s dental development?), but it does highlight the fact that dental arch deformities are not a natural part of human life. Just like with symptom-based treatment of skin disorders like acne, most people note that the improvements they get from using orthodontic appliances aren’t permanent. Again, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use dental braces if you’ve got a severe overbite. I’m just saying that we have to look at the actual underlying causes of these disorders.

What about myopia? Just like the two previous examples, myopia is a disease of civilization/mismatch disease. Studies show that this disorder is virtually unheard of in hunter-gatherer populations and primitive/illiterate people, an observation that isn’t especially surprising when we consider the fact that nearsightedness significantly jeopardises survival in an ancestral natural environment (6). Genes for this condition would clearly have been selected against. We know that prevalence rates of myopia have been on the rise especially over the last 40 years, and we know that an indoor lifestyle characterized by hours in front of the computer and “excessive” reading is at the root of this increased prevalence (7,8). We adapt to our environment.

Reversing myopia

The question becomes: Are glasses and contact lenses the best solutions for dealing with this epidemic of myopia and hyperopia? They definitely provide instant satisfaction, but they clearly don’t treat the conditions at hand – they merely mask the problems. Could we be doing better? Could be actually treat Myopia without surgeries and see clearly again?

Some researchers, such as Loren Cordain, have proposed that a diet rich in refined carbohydrates could be contributing to the high rates of Myopia in westernized nations (6). However, although diet is probably a contributing factor, I don’t think changing how you eat is going to have any significant effects on your eyesight. Rather, we have to actually involve our eyes. Todd Becker (MS) who presented at the AHS has developed a strategy that he and many of his followers used to reverse their myopia – And they are not the only ones who’ve been able to do this. When I started digging deeper into this whole thing, I found that there are several books and studies supporting the idea that nearsightedness can be corrected.

So, what is this strategy all about? Todd Becker’s treatment protocol is based around the process called hormesis: a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses. Basically, he approaches myopia just like you would strength training or cold water showers. To cause an adaptation to strength training, you have to lift heavy weights and work at the edge of failure, and to get some effect from cold water showers, you have to actually be cold and uncomfortable. Todd argues that the same principles hold true when we want to reverse myopia: We have to stimulate the eyes by working on the “edge of failure”. If we stress them too little, we won’t see any improvements, while if we stress them too much, they give up – just like your quads and hamstrings do if you put too much weight on the squat bar.

So, what does this mean? If you’re someone who spends hours each day reading or looking at the computer (as so many of us do), Todd argues that you should challenge your eyes by not wearing corrective lenses (if your myopia is weak, you should use plus lenses). During this time, you should move back and forth between two distances; edge of focus and edge of blur.
This print pushing technique, in combination with using progressively weaker lenses and a technique called fusing of ghosted images, is how he recommends reversing myopia. I’ve included a video below where Todd gives us his own story of correcting myopia, explains the causes of the disorder, highlights plenty of research on the subject, and explains the specifics of his approach. I recommend that you watch the whole thing, but if you want to jump right to the treatment, go to 16:30.

Important final words

I’m not yet convinced that it’s possible to get 20/20 vision using this strategy, as we need more well-controlled studies to say how effective this treatment really is. However, I think it’s possible to at least reverse the process of nearsightedness and improve your vision. I’m definitely intrigued, and I’m strongly considering giving his approach a try over the next couple of months. The biggest obstacle I see at the moment is the practical consideration. Since I use contact lenses – not glasses – I find that it’s going to be a lot of hassle to take the lenses on and off during the day – depending of where I am and what types of activities I participate in. However, I’m not going to let this stop me; I just have to set up an action plan for getting this done without having to sacrifice the enjoyment of life. What about you? Are you going to try to treat your myopia or hyperopia using this technique?

Further reading

Improve eyesight – and throw away your glasses
How to Avoid the Opticians ‘Eyeglasses Scam’
How one person improved his vision
Myopia: a modern yet reversible disease

Comments

  1. This seems interesting but I hesitate to try it in fear of doing more damage to my vision.

    • I’ve been doing this for about 2 years and my eyes have improved by about 1 dioptre. Before I started using this method, my eyesight continuously got worse.
      I’ve done nothing but using plus lenses for reading and undercorrection for television and stuff like that. Really simple and so effective. But you’ve got to be patient.

  2. I read Todd’s initial blog post on myopia about 1.5 years ago, and since then I’ve been working on improving y vision. I started by just not wearing my minus lenses at all, and quickly progressed to using weak reading glasses while reading. Since then, I’ve gradually moved to using stronger and stronger reading glasses. As a result, I’ve gone from being a -2.5/-3 myope, to being able to read 20/15 (slightly *better* than 20/20 on a vision chart from 20 feet away. My left eye still isn’t 20/20, but my right eye is at least that. I would have to say that this method absolutely can work, but takes diligence and frequent practice on focusing at the edge of blur. It’s been totally worth it for me, though, as I haven’t worn my old minus lenses (or any minus lenses) for the last 8 months. I wholeheartedly recommend trying it.

    As for your quandary with only wearing contacts, you could get around that by using weak reading glasses (+1) OVER the contacts for distance viewing, and somewhat stronger ones (perhaps +3 or more) for close work. Good luck!

    • Thanks for sharing. Nice to hear from someone who’s actually tried the approach for a long time – and gotten great results.

    • Hi Joshua ,

      Could you tell us what your age is ?

      (as such progress is not even advertised by Todd’s – the agreed max progress is 1D / year at best case, and there were people who never progressed beyond “blinking improvement ” which is some temporary change in muscles tension, not to mention tears which can reshape cornea for a few seconds)

      • Sure. I was 33 / turning 34 at the time when I began my efforts. Now 36 and my vision hasn’t gotten any worse than when I last posted.

        • yes I can see Todd is referring to your comment:

          http://forum.gettingstronger.org/index.php/topic,1077.msg8427.html#msg8427

          would you mind posting any tips and tricks?

          1. I am mostly interested in using PLUS lenses for -2D person, if e.g. reading at the edge of blur is really needed or it is enough to just wear +1D at home (to make eyes working toward shortening) – after all it should not make any difference – maybe when reading you keep more control if eyes are working all the time.

          2. Do you feel any tension in your eyes, or when you were doing exercises for first months ?

          3. Were you doing exercises exclusively forweaker eye (patching stronger) ?
          (I have a feeling when tried the method that weaker is ignored by the brain -as there is too much blurr and I have a bit of astigmatism -0.75D too in the weaker.

          regards
          j

          • Sure, I could probably note a few things. First, I really think that reading with the plus lenses is the best activity. That, along with just not wearing my minus lenses any more, seemed like the most beneficial things I could do. Second, I’d recommend progressively making things harder over time — so read from a further distance (hard to make yourself do, but can be accomplished when reading on a PC by pushing the monitor an inch further away once in a while), or getting plus lenses that are .5 diopters stronger.
            I did feel some tension in my eyes at times. Occasionally I would get a mild headache, particularly when I was trying stronger lenses the first few times. I also think that’s when I made the most progress. (The headache was no big deal — I’d just take a break and it’d go away.)
            As for my weaker eye, I made sure to use a lens that was weaker for it (I had to pop lenses out and swap them from weaker reading glasses). I also later tried doing patching my stronger eye and just improving my weaker eye. I made some progress, but I found that to be more taxing and less satisfying. Later when I quit with that, my weaker eye went back to its usual weaker status. I think it’s fine, actually — at present, my stronger eye takes over for distance viewing, and the weaker one for reading and such. So I don’t worry about that any more.
            Good luck!

  3. Hi, I just came across your blog, I found this article through Google since I am working on reversing myopia as well at the moment. So far I have improved my eyesight from -2 to -0.5 using this method, and I keep going. I am absolutely confident to get my full vision back. By the way, do you know this website: http://frauenfeldclinic.com – there are a lot of useful articles on that website. It’s where I learned about this method the first time. Good luck with getting your vision back!

  4. I’ve been at it for about 3 years now. I started at -6.75. Two years into the process I went to the optometrist to get an independent evaluation-He told me I was at -4.75. I currently wear -3.25, but that is somewhat undercorrected, and I’m not sure what my current true prescription is. It absolutely works, but does take persistence and dedication-and time.

    I plan on going all the way to 20/20.

    • Hey Nate! Thanks for sharing your experience. I haven’t been able to get started with all of this yet, but it’s definitely on my to-do list. Seems like most people report that it does in fact work – but it’s a slow process.

  5. I believe prevention is possible. I regret that OD refuse to help us.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACPvyuMUP-0
    Yes, it is possible to go from 20/60 to 20/20, but it takes about one year of persistent wearing of a plus, under your control.

  6. Eirik. You mentioned that it’s going to be a hassle to taking the glasses/contact lenses on and off. This should be a non-issue, since you can always wear your distant contact lenses coupled with a, say, pair of eyeglasses with +1.5 diopter. You can even put up this eyeglasses during all waking hour – as long as you place it slightly below your nose so that you will only look through it when engaging in near work. Hope it helps.

  7. Todds method is not as effective or quick as the original myopter method of early to mid 1900s, they used stronger reading glasses for stronger myopia and wore them for all reading work, reversed myopia in children between 3 and 9 months.

    • Mick, I hadn’t heard anything about this, but would be interested to know more. Do you have any links to more information regarding this myopia reversal in children?

  8. Interesting article and comments. I’ve been extremely nearsighted most of my life. I learned a long time ago that I could keep my vision from becoming progressively worse by undercorrecting my eyes. They’ve even improved a little over the years, even though I’ve done nothing else to facilitate improvement. I don’t mind having the glasses on my face but don’t like being a slave to them. Based on Nate’s success (who was even more myopic than I am), I may try this system. I have doubts about completely reversing my nearsightedness, but any improvement would be welcome.

  9. So Eirik … how you tried? If so – how has it gone? If not, why not?

    • Hi kameakarpa!

      Unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to trying this strategy yet. It’s been on my to-do list for a long time, but I’ve had to prioritize other things that were more pressing.

  10. I’m approaching this idea with a bit of skepticism.

    Here are my concerns with this idea:
    1) Todd Becker has no medical background. Though he may be intelligent, I cannot trust his word…people can be deceptive (for their own reasons).
    2) I have seen a lack of proof on the concept, even though this was posted years ago. Please keep in mind your eyes change over time and thus false positive results are possible. Citation and scientific documentation are necessary to establish proof.

    If you taken his advice, then please feel free to share your experience whether positive or negative.

Trackbacks

  1. […] strong bones, and good posture (1, 2, 3). This is in stark contract to modern societies, where myopia, narrowed dental arches, malocclusion, tooth decay, acne vulgaris, excessive anterior pelvic tilt, […]

Leave a Reply

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: