The Myopia Myth

Chapter 17

Since the organizations in the eye care field were telling the public nothing about the true cause of myopia, the idea of forming an organization devoted solely to myopia began to seem more and more necessary.

The final decision about forming a myopia prevention organization was made at the 1974 Annual Congress of the American Optometric Association in Washington, D. C. An important part of such meetings takes place on a large floor where booths can be rented to exhibit optical goods, hand out literature, etc. I rented a booth to show the Myopter and give out literature on the latest research on myopia and ways of preventing it. To my amazement, the booth was almost totally ignored by the optometrists, although an adjoining booth, where the tinting of eyeglasses was being demonstrated, was always crowded. It was obvious that the people to whom we must go with our vision problems were more interested in tinting lenses than in saving sight. They were ignoring everything that had to do with myopia prevention.

It was quite clear that pleading with the members of the eye care professions to change their ways was not going to succeed. They would have to be forced to change, and this would occur only after the public was well informed about the real causes and solutions to the problem of myopia.

In 1974, I therefore formed a nonprofit, tax-exempt Pennsylvania corporation, the International Myopia Prevention Association. When the formation of IMPA was announced in various optometric journals (it was ignored by the medical journals), I began to receive letters from optometrists around the country expressing their interest in the new organization. The response was greater than I had anticipated and indicated clearly that there did exist an unfilled need for such an organization. Typical comments from these letters may be of interest:

"I have just read about your new IMPA. This type of organization is long overdue. The goals that were listed are attainable, and if we can band together I feel meaningful strides can be attained toward realizing them. There is absolutely no question in my mind that acquired myopia is a result of the organism's adaptation to its environment. In the past year I have been highly successful in preventing and arresting progressive myopia." - Sacramento, California.

"Congratulations are in order for organizing IMPA. Such an organization is obviously needed and best controlled by non-eye-care practitioners."- Carlsbad, California.

"I am very interested in myopia prevention, as I specialize in pediatric optometry. As a consultant to many school districts, I have been fighting this battle for twenty years. You may include me as a very active and concerned doctor regarding this pressing problem." - Rochester, Michigan.

"Please be informed that I am an optometrist doing extensive work in the field of visual therapy. I am highly successful in reversing myopia of a low degree provided that minus lenses have not been prescribed previously." - Fern Park, Florida.

Many of the letters conveyed a tone of isolation and frustration. These doctors who were trying to treat myopia properly were in need of moral support and a sense of solidarity with other practitioners of a similar philosophy. This could only be accomplished by a national organization.

IMPA also produced what is probably the first educational film ever available on myopia prevention. Now on video cassette, "Myopia - A Preventable Tragedy" is narrated and runs approximately 10 minutes. The material covered is similar to that which is contained in the IMPA booklet, The Prevention of Acquired Myopia. Considerable use is made of animation, resulting in entertaining yet educational viewing. Some of the items touched on are:

1. What myopia is. The difference between myopia, emmetropia, and hyperopia is explained with diagrams.

2. How myopia develops. Accommodation, ciliary muscle spasm, vitreous pressure increase, and their role in creating myopia are explained. Animation is used to show how the eye permanently increases in size from excessive accommodation.

3. How concave glasses damage vision. The harmful effects of prescribing progressively stronger concave lenses, and the serious problems such as detached retina which frequently develop, are discussed.

4. Supporting research. Various research projects conducted over the past twenty-five years are included to show that there is solid scientific evidence of the environmental cause of myopia.

5. The importance of good reading habits. This section explains why it is important to hold close work as far as possible from the eyes, to look up frequently, and to use good lighting.

6. The use of preventive aids. The important role of preventive aids is discussed. Such aids as reading glasses and bifocals are shown in actual use by children.

7. The role of parents and schools. This section stresses the need for parents to see to it that their children get proper care and not to be satisfied with the usual concave lens prescription. The point is also made that it is really the job of the schools to insure that children learn to read and study without damage to their vision.

The film can be used by schools, civic groups, lending libraries, etc. It is also suitable for showing to patients in doctors' offices.

IMPA has also published The Myopia Myth and established a solid presence on the Internet with

Is it not ironic that all of this badly needed activity is being done not by the eye care professionals, but by an outsider? It is sad indeed that if you want to save your child's vision, you must take the initiative and dig out the facts yourself, because neither the government, the schools, nor the medical profession is going to give you the slightest bit of help. If anything, they will just stand in your way and give you false information.

At one time, IMPA communicated with seventy-five foundations, including some of the largest in the country and several that have supported vision research in the past. Not one was willing to provide even a small grant for either public education or research. Foundations prefer to support safe, run-of-the-mill causes, not controversial ones.

Cover     Next