Eye exercises are sometimes recommended for children who are having difficulty learning to read or write. These exercises are often called vision training or vision therapy. There is no scientific evidence that they work. The American Academy of Ophthalmology joined with other groups in 2014 to issue a statement about vision therapy. The statement says that:
“Currently, there is no adequate scientific evidence to support the view that subtle eye or visual problems cause learning disabilities. Furthermore, the evidence does not support the concept that vision therapy or tinted lenses or filters are effective, directly or indirectly, in the treatment of learning disabilities. Thus, the claim that vision therapy improves visual efficiency cannot be substantiated.”
Now, adults who are trying to improve their eyesight are starting to use eye exercises too. There’s still no proof that eye exercises improve vision.
New smartphone eye exercise apps claim to help adults get rid of their reading glasses. These apps are also scientifically unproven, according to Stephen N. Lipsky, MD, of Thomas Eye Group. Dr. Lipsky is an ophthalmologist specializing in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus.
“There is no scientific evidence that any eye exercise program will reduce or eliminate the need for glasses,” says Dr. Lipsky. Around the age of 40, most adults develop presbyopia, when the eye loses the ability to see things clearly up close. “No matter what you do, you’re going to need a higher and higher power of reading glasses as you age,” he says. Other options to treat presbyopia include contact lenses or refractive surgery.
Eye exercises also are ineffective for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
The One Condition That Eye Exercise Can Help
Eye exercises may be helpful for a condition called convergence insufficiency. This occurs when the eyes don’t work together when a person tries to focus on a nearby object. This makes it difficult to read, for example. Vision therapy can increase the ability to bring the eyes together.
Treatment for convergence insufficiency may include “pencil pushups.” The person focuses on a small letter on the side of a pencil as he or she moves it closer to the bridge of his or her nose. The ophthalmologist may also recommend eye-focusing exercises that can be done on a computer.
Eye exercises may not be the answer for aging eyes, but there are options if you’re having trouble seeing. Talk to your ophthalmologist about the best way to correct your vision.