vision therapy

aaron swartz has written about “eye exercises” a few times. the concept isn’t quite as far outside the mainstream as one may think.

when i was very little, i was cross-eyed. i had operations on both eyes to correct this, which resulted in an over-correction of my right eye — it turns out (becoming a “lazy eye”). when i was a little older (about eight), i had another surgery which tried to correct that, but it was not successful.

so now my eyes are decidedly funky, even to professionals. i have different prescriptions for each eye (one near-sighted, one far-sighted), and it turns out i have some of the mannerisms of someone who is cross-eyed (like standing with my legs crossed), even though my eyes turn out.

it’s not really just my right eye that turns out — i’ve adapted to things and can basically alternate which eye i’m primarily using. this means that i shift my attention to my right eye, the left one drifts out (although not as much as the right eye does).

as a result of this, i have monocular vision, or no depth perception. close one eye. that’s roughly what i see, but not quite: my other eye doesn’t turn off, so i still have a full range of peripheral vision. there’s just no depth to anything.

sometime after my back surgery last year, i decided that maybe there is something to this modern medicine thing, and started looking into what sorts of possibilities there were for correcting my eyes. it turns out there’s quite a bit of information about the subject on that interweb thing, and i eventually found my way to a optometrist who specializes in what is called “vision therapy” (or “orthoptics”). it is almost exactly what it sounds like: a sort of physical therapy for the eyes.

now i’ll back up to before my last eye surgery a bit: before that, the eye doctor i was seeing at the time had me wear an eye patch for a while, and do what he called “eye pushups,” where you basically bring your finger towards your nose, trying to cross your eyes. that didn’t really go anywhere, and thus the final eye surgery, and

vision therapy is like that, only with a whole battery of different exercises, and regular professional supervision. i’ve been doing it now for about six months (with gaps due to traveling and holidays). and the results are much like an exercise program, properly executed: slow and steady. i have a much better awareness and understanding of what my eyes are doing, and more control.

when i started, the doctor only put my odds of getting the results i wanted at about 60%, and the feedback i’ve gotten so far is that i’m making good progress. and i feel like i’m making good progress, although it can certainly be frustrating at times.

there you go. it’s not much of a story with a happy ending (yet?), but it seemed worth telling. i’ve written very little of any depth about myself here, except obliquely, and this seemed like a reasonable place to start (even if i’m still being oblique, in part).

i guess i should back up again, and explain a little why this is something i see as a problem worth correcting. but that’s just a little too “can open, worms everywhere” for now. maybe another time.

a small footnote: i don’t mind wearing glasses at all, and not wearing glasses is not one of my goals. i’m one of those people who finds glasses attractive. it’s a goal i can sympathize with, but i’ve got bigger fish to fry, as it were.


Do you have a link to the different eye exercises and routines? Also, I missed what the exercises actually accomplish. Better vision, ability to focus, less strain...?

» geoff » january 16, 2004 9:35pm

no, i don’t have a link to the different eye exercises. in my case, the exercises are intended to get my eyes to work in tandem.

here’s an article on that discusses the “bates method,” which is like a primitive version of vision therapy. (it was developed in 1920. things have progressed since then.)

» jim (link) » january 17, 2004 10:06am

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