The Myopia Myth

Chapter 16

Lies and more lies. That the real cause of myopia is being kept from the public is nothing short of a tragedy. The numerous organizations that pretend to tell the public about eye care are supported financially by eye doctors and the optical industry. They spend millions of dollars urging us to have our eyes examined, knowing that this will lead to more eye business. These organizations choose impressive names and act as if they were the ultimate authorities on the subject of vision, but they are no more than advertising agencies for the doctors and the optical industry. Their business is to sell eye examinations and eyeglasses.

Perhaps, in this age of the Internet, the easiest way to see what these organizations are saying is to look at their websites:

1) Prevent Blindness America: Formerly "The National Society to Prevent Blindness", this is an organization devised and financially supported by doctors and optical companies not to prevent blindness but to drive in more business. Although myopia is a major cause of blindness, this organization seems unaware of it. Under Eye Problems/Common Eye Myths you will find five myths, of which three are myths themselves - "Using glasses won't harm your eyes; Reading in dim light will not hurt your eyes; Regular eye exams can save your sight." (Not if the doctor prescribes minus lenses!) It would be better to say nothing than to spread these lies to the public. Some public-spirited organization!

2) American Academy Of Ophthalmology: Browsing this site under Public Information/Refractive Errors will teach you nothing more than that myopia is a structural defect. Sadly, some websites are just not very informative.

3) National Eye Institute: A search for "myopia" takes us on a long trip over The Imperfect Eye/Some Problems Of Childhood/ Refractive Errors/Myopia to learn that "The eyeball is too long or the cornea is too rounded and light is focused in front of the retina instead of directly on it. Eyeglasses or contact lenses can correct the problem." How informative! How many billions of our dollars have they wasted? As with most federal agencies, money talks and the public interest comes last. This website is a self-promoting waste site.

4) Canadian Ophthalmological Society: Search for "myopia" at this site and you will learn that "It is an inherited condition usually detected in children between the ages of eight and twelve. Few factors outside of heredity affect this condition. Using dim light, reading too much or nutritional deficiencies do not seem to impact it one way or the other." Better not take your child to these fossils.

5) American Optometric Association: What does this union of optometrists have to say about myopia? At Common Vision Conditions/Myopia, all you will find is "There is also growing evidence that nearsightedness may be caused by the stress of too much close work....Your optometrist can prescribe glasses to correct nearsightedness....Refractive surgery or laser procedures are also possible treatments." It would be difficult to come up with a weaker, more uninformative statement than that. Eyeglasses or surgery - take your pick! The AOA spends a lot of money misinforming the public.

This is the kind of thing that the public is being told continuously. While the words on these sites will change in the future, the self-serving sentiment behind the words will remain the same. Articles on advances in myopia prevention research are regularly published in optometric journals and most doctors are aware of them. The control of myopia is also occasionally discussed at such optometric meetings as those held annually by the American Academy of Optometry. But somehow the public is never told about myopia prevention. It is discussed, lip service paid to it, and then forgotten.

I am convinced that if the people in the eye care business felt they could make money from myopia prevention, we would hear "prevention" shouted from the rooftops. We would be bombarded with messages about it on TV and radio, and in print. But since prevention is not considered profitable, it is ignored.

A voice from Australia. Maurice Brumer, an optometrist from Frankston, Australia, became so disturbed by the myopia silence that he took positive action. Ten years experience as a practicing optometrist had convinced him that tremendous visual damage was being caused by all the close work of modern civilization. He also became convinced that the use of concave lenses by children was causing even more damage.

In 1977, he attempted to deliver a paper on his clinical experiences at a meeting of the optometry section of the Forty-eighth Congress of AANZAS (the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science). His paper was rejected on the grounds that it presented theories too radical and undocumented, but he felt that the real reason for the rejection was that the eye care establishment does not want the public to know anything about the myopia controversy.

Because of this rejection, and to dramatize his belief that "the Australian optometric profession is refusing to allow information on the possible dangers of concave lenses to reach the public," he attended the congress anyway and, in his outrage, staged a protest and disrupted the Presidential Address.

Because his charges were subsequently reported to the public by the newspapers and radio in Australia, his opponents were unable to prevent him from presenting his paper at the 1979 Congress. The conclusion of his paper sums up his feelings:

"The eye care professions have resisted change irrationally and fearfully, unwilling to admit that what has gone on before has been wrong and harmful, and by doing so they have unleashed on the public they serve a cataract of horror. This continued situation is a tragedy for the public and a disgrace for optometry. While it is understandable that optometrists will not find it easy to admit that what they have been doing is wrong and harmful, especially for those academic university optometrists responsible for the education of our graduates, to preserve the current horrors to protect our professional prestige and privilege is an abdication of our responsibilities, ethics and morality. I can make no apology for causing embarrassment to my professional colleagues. The interests of the public are paramount and must be served. The purpose of this paper is to direct the future to end the disgrace of the past."

Unfortunately, nothing has changed since that accusation was made. It will take more than a few harsh words to change "business as usual."

Pioneers. Even in the early days of modern eye care, there were always a few vision specialists who tried to preserve the vision of their myopic patients in spite of the prevailing views of their colleagues. One of these was Jacob Raphaelson, an optometrist who practiced for many years in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. His experience in treating vision problems convinced him of the harm of minus lenses and the benefits of plus lenses for close work. He found that by prescribing plus lenses rather than minus lenses for myopes, an improvement in vision frequently took place.

Between 1937 and 1961, Dr. Raphaelson published at his own expense several books that documented his consistent success in preventing myopia by using lenses to reduce the stress of close work. He became so convinced of the value of plus lenses that for many years he gave them free of charge to needy persons with whom he came in contact. He tried unsuccessfully to interest others in supporting further research on his methods of treating myopia. Here was a man who was far ahead of his time, but his publications and work have been ignored.

There have been many other lone dissenters in earlier years, but there would be no point in trying to mention them all. It is sufficient to note that none of them was able to effect significant change in the accepted treatment of myopia. In most cases, their work was dismissed as not even worthy of examination or discussion. Most eye care specialists go on to this day, apparently unconcerned about the harmful effects of what they do.

Those who express opinions on the cause of myopia are divided into two distinct groups. The geneticists claim that acquired myopia is inherited while the environmentalists claim that it results from an unnatural visual environment.

We environmentalists are continually being asked by the geneticists to show proof of our claims that acquired myopia results from excessive close work and that the prescription of concave lenses causes the myopia to increase more rapidly that it otherwise would. It is assumed from the start that the burden of proof is on us and that we are expected to raise money and conduct endless studies that will somehow finally convince everyone that we are right. In many cases this is like trying to convince a tobacco company executive that smoking causes lung cancer. No amount of testing will convince those people who prefer to believe what pleases them most or what is most lucrative to them.

Why is the burden of proof on the environmentalists? We are doing nothing that could be considered harmful. Let those who are taking payment for prescribing concave lenses prove that what they are doing is not harmful. Let them conduct studies which prove that concave lenses do not hasten the progress of myopia.

FDA. Even the federal government has shown no interest in the myopia problem. The Food and Drug Administration requires the testing of drugs for their harmful effects before they are put on the market. Even when approved, they are expected to be used in a manner that is not harmful. In recent years, the FDA has been regulating devices as well as drugs. For example, soft contact lenses must be proven safe before they are marketed. The FDA should begin an investigation of the ways in which concave lenses are being used. They should require proof that concave lenses on young myopes do not cause the myopia to increase. Just because use of such lenses is "standard practice" does not mean that it is right or that it should be allowed to continue. But the FDA is not about to "rock the boat" to that extent.

Worthless research. Advances in myopia prevention have often had to be made by public-spirited individuals working with limited funds, because the people who control the vision research money in this country ignore this type of research.

The National Eye Institute has spent billions of dollars on vision research. Most of this money never leads to any worthwhile discoveries. There is often a close personal relationship between those who hand out the money and those who get it. It is thus almost impossible for an unknown outsider to get any research support, however worthy the project might be. It is rare for an optometrist to receive any research money. Much of the money goes to ophthalmologists, none of whom have any interest in really finding a way to prevent myopia.

Furthermore, it should be easy to understand that it is more advantageous for a researcher to look for a solution to a problem than to find the solution. Once the solution is found, there will no longer be a reason to support the research. But if the researcher can keep studying relatively unimportant pieces of the problem, and never really getting at the cause, the research money can be kept coming in indefinitely. It is the old story of being so busy investigating the trees that researchers fail to see the forest. Actually, they don't want to do otherwise.

Wouldn't you think that when optometrists report that they have been successful in reversing myopia in their patients, the government would send a team of investigators to look into such a marvelous development? Wouldn't you expect them to study patient records and talk to the patients or their parents in order to confirm this? No, that might be logical but it is not how the National Eye Institute works. Unbelievable as it may seem, these people can hand out millions of dollars in vision research money every year and turn their backs on such important developments.

And if that isn't enough, Dr. Francis Young, this country's most important myopia researcher, told me personally that after his research began to cast doubt on the hereditary theory he was visited by three men associated in some way with the National Eye Institute. He was told that if he continued with the same type of research he would get no more money from the NEI. He told them what they could do with their money and never again got any federal funding. Unfortunately, I have no names and no proof to offer to back up this shocking story, but what reason would this eminent researcher have to lie about such a serious matter?

We have a right to expect government officials to do what is best for the public, not what is financially best for doctors and other vested interests. However, the officials of the National Eye Institute do not want to "rock the boat." They do not want to be criticized by their colleagues who are happy with the present situation. So we can expect them to do what is best for the health of the medical profession and to neglect the health of the public. The main source of funds for such research in this country comes from the taxpayer's pocket and is controlled by the National Eye Institute. The Institute's lack of interest in myopia prevention is thus a misuse of the hard-earned money of our people. The situation is all the more tragic since the mistreatment of myopes would quickly end if the National Eye Institute were to call for the federal government to pass the proper laws to render such behavior illegal.

On the other hand, just because valuable research is done is no guarantee that it will ever be used. Much research through the years has been ignored by those who are responsible for the care of the public's health. Usually when research is put to use, it is because someone has a vested interest in it - that is, someone can make money from it. Take the drug industry as an example. Great sums of money are spent on drug research. If a useful drug is discovered, the doctors and the public will be bombarded with advertising material praising it. Doctors and hospitals will be offered money to test it. The new drug will hardly be ignored.

Now ask yourself who has a vested interest in preventing myopia. The doctors? The big optical manufacturing companies? The schools? The government? The fact of the matter is that no one has a financial interest in preventing myopia except the unfortunate person who suffers from it. It is steadily deteriorating vision that makes necessary the frequent visits to the eye doctor and the frequent purchases of eyeglasses.

Billions of dollars are also being spent on such degenerative eye problems as cataract and glaucoma, which are due in most cases to a faulty diet - primarily our refined, high fat diet. To really attack these problems at their source would disturb too many business interests, so we can expect to see our research money spent only on investigating little pieces of these problems, seeking that magical, ever-elusive "cure."

Those of us who are trying to do something about the myopia tragedy will continue to the best of our ability. The cause of myopia prevention will apparently have to get along without the support of the government or the National Eye Institute.

Dangerous corneal surgery. The prevention of myopia would also eliminate the need for surgical alteration of the cornea, a lucrative but dangerous practice that many doctors are feverishly promoting while they make no mention of prevention. Many people have had their vision ruined for life by these procedures and deeply regret having made the decision. The eye doctors spend millions on advertising to get unsuspecting people to undergo this very risky procedure because of the easy money. The media must share in the blame for this because of all the free promotion that has been given to this "cure" for refractive error while little or nothing is said about prevention. The doctors and their lackeys in the government call these procedures safe. There has never been a bigger LIE.

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