Use Your Own Eyes
by William B. MacCracken, M. D. Use Your Own Eyes was first published in 1937.
TYPES OF ABNORMAL VISION
Myopia, the technical name for nearsightedness, is described as a condition in which the eyeball is longer than normal. For that reason the rays of light reflected from distant objects are brought to a focus before they contact the rear end of the retina. The effect is that those distant objects either are not seen or are not seen clearly.
Stating that the eyeball certainly is longer, the books indulge in a long further discussion, much of it erudite suppositions, sometimes contradictory. Considering here this type of abnormal vision, it is agreed that the eyeball is longer. But we remind the reader that the eyeball always is longer, and that will not be denied, whenever it is focused on nearby objects. In short, a habitually nearsighted eye ' is an eye habitually focused for nearby objects.
All myopes will agree that their nearsightedness is so variable that it might be called an irregular irregularity. It may be thought of as an acquired habit which is more or less constant.
Dr. Bates claims that such an eye has developed a difficulty in an effort to see distant objects, and seeks relief from that strain by confining the function of vision to objects close up.
Many suggestions are made concerning general hygienic environment, and personal conduct, which plainly indicate that the acquired habit can be cured and may be prevented. Its beginning, and type of misconduct, variable rate of increase, and sensitiveness to circumstance, as described in the books, all support the explanation here offered, and warrant the claim that it is not incurable, even as the books point out that it is preventable.
This condition, like myopia, is produced by an improper action of external eye muscles. When the two oblique mus cles contract at the wrong time, it is myopia. When the four reeti muscles contract uniformly and equally, instead of moving the eyeball in some specific direction, they shorten it, so that the focal distance between the front of the lens and the rear end of the eye is too short, and the light rays from nearby objects would come to a focus behind the retina. One does not see any object with a perfect register, but the far off objects are clearer than those nearby. Commonly a farsighted person, so-called, sees clearly very little farther than a person with average vision.
"The eye of old age" begins to appear about the time one passes the meridian in the forties. The supposition is that the lens is getting harder, and cannot change its shape. Cases of this condition, it is recorded, have been diagnosed at nine years of age. It would be idle to discuss the correctness of that diagnosis. Surely it might be wrong.
It is not reasonable to expect the eye to maintain a youthful vigor different from any other unit of the system. Accommodation is a function that involves muscles as well as mentality. But some maintain their general physiological vigor far beyond the average normal. Many lose it earlier. Dr. Holmes, a leader of medical thought, reminds us pointedly that some retain at eighty years a power of vision exceeding the average of youth. To say simply that a hardening of the lens is the only cause of presbyopia is an assumption not only unscientific, but also inconsistent with findings accepted by the medical profession.
Astigmatism is defined as a refractive condition of the eye in which the parallel rays falling upon it are not focused to a single point. Instead of a single point, they are spread into a diffused area on the retina. There are a number of types of this condition, which is referred to as an aberration. They are classified as latitudinal or longitudinal, regular or irregular, direct or inverse or oblique, simple or compound or mixed, myopic or hyperopic, and these classes are again compounded. These classifications are based upon an elaborate and meticulous study of the many various and complicated ways in which an astigmatic eye may, or may not, conduct itself. The variegated combinations of abnormal refraction which are described are all ascribed to one or two causes. The lens may be too near to, or too far from, the receiving screen, the retina; or the refracting surfaces of the eye (that is, the covering of the anterior end of the eyeball, and the lens) are curved too much or curved too little. The surface covering also may have the correct curveturs, but may be too dense or not dense enough. Astigmatism, it is stated, may be congenital or acquired.
The above is perhaps a sufficient explanation, and enough of a technical description, of what occurs in astigmatism. To put the picture simply, it means that the eyeball normally should be perfectly round, and when it is not, a condition is present which is the cause of unequal refractive areas. The uneven external surface of the eyeball sends the light rays in wrong directions, and the result is very much like a photograph taken while the camera is moving.
The explanation of the cause which is given by Dr. Bates accounts for all of these varieties and variations.
There are six muscles fastened into the walls of the eyeball. When these muscles move with the perfect coordination which is their normal function, there is no astigmatism. When they impose an abnormal, irregular, and uncoordin. ated pressure upon the eyeball, some parts of the surface are subjected to a greater or to a lesser compression than is normal. That causes the flatness in one meridian, and permits a fuller curve in another meridian. When the abnormal pressure is released the fault is corrected. That seems so simple that in the text books it has been entirely overlooked. So was Newton's law, for a long time.
In the text books there are many pages about this famous, or infamous, intruder, astigmatism. But it all amounts to a most erudite, meticulous recording of research findings which we are told constitute a pathological condition that is incurable. But that is not a fair statement. It is possible to modify and even to diminish the said symptoms, so that they become, in the words of Shakespeare, "smaller by degrees and beautifully less," even until at least the con. dition is not at all disagreeable.
Cataracts are commonly thought of as different in nature from the functional conditions above. But it is true that many of these specific abnormal conditions also recover, even without any treatment. There are many different types of cataracts but it would not be of interest here to discuss them with the general reader.
Years ago, I discussed with an ophthalmologist friend of mine a white cataract filling the lens of a fifteen-year-old boy, who acquired it from a severe attack of oak poisoning. Before his eyes were closed by the swelling in his face, the lens was clear. I saw him first four months later, after treatment by his family doctor, and then an ophthalmologist, and there was no improvement. After a few weeks of treatment, especially including a carefully directed exposure to sunlight, the lens became normal. When I urged my friend for an explanation, he replied that we know cab sracts, even severe cases, recover spontaneously.
I have treated a number, generally elderly adults, and have been able to secure a considerable relief in all the cases, sometimes quite satisfactory.
A different kind of an opacity was a heavy scar on the f cornea, covering the anterior end of the eyeball, the result of a severe infection of the eye thirty years before. The first time I saw it, the woman looked up at the sun, and said it was light; looked across the street, and said it was dark. There was a great improvement. in a few weeks, and now, for fifteen years, the vision right through the unchanged scar has been as good a normal as most sixty-year-old eyes. The main treatment was a careful, graduated exposure to the sun, which stimulated the dormant visual center, helped very much by the hope, which was developed into an expectancy by the improvement which began in a very few days.
Squint, which technically is called strabismus, is an abnormal condition in which one eye deviates, or both eyes deviate, instead of pointing directly toward an object being looked at. The customary observation of such conditions is so casual that very few have any knowledge of the different forms in which squint is recorded. The abnormal deviation may be toward the nose, or outward, up or down, or in some oblique direction. When,both eyes squint, they may assume similar abnormal directions, or may deviate in directions that are dissimilar. In some cases both eyes may look straight at the same object when both are uncovered, but when covered, either eye, or both, may deviate in any direction. That specific type of abnormal action is spoken of as insufrciency.
Deviations may be constant, always present; or intermittent, not always present. They may be continuous-the same during distant and near vision; or periodie-when the degree is greater for near objects than for distant ones, or the reverse. They may be concomitant-when the amount of diviation is constant; or non-concomitant-when the de. gree changes, as the eyes move in different directions. These different conditions are often mixed, and the various combinations have specific names.
The reasons given in the text books for the development of squint involve so much intricate description and explana. tion that they would have no place in a book like this, which makee no pretense of being a text book. The predominating fundamental cause is an inherited predisposition.
It is common knowledge that the beginning of a squint is often noted following some sickness, generally in child hood. It may follow a mental shock. A girl of seven was thrown down by a big dog, and the result was an instantaneous squint involving both eyes. The text books state that certain causative factors are not located in the muscles that move and may hold the eyes in abnormal positions. The books point out that until very late in the development of most cases of squint, the rotations of the eyes are normal, indicating that the power of the muscles is neither impaired nor excessive. The books conclude therefore, that the changes which take place are doubtless central, due to the excessive stimulation of the center for one movement pra during inhibitions for the center of the opposing movement, and vice versa.
Thus far, I have described briefly the explanations one finds in a standard text book regarding the many different forms of squint, and the theories which are offered to account for the abnormal conduct of the different factors involved. I will now present the conception of Dr. Bates, which recognizes that the fault in the mechanism of vision originates in the center in the brain, and endeavors to correct that fault by influencing the conduct of that center. Since it is established that some eyes afflicted with a squint, as reported in the text books, not only become straight, but recover normal vision, there is, then, a way to actually cure them. That is the way by which they cure themselves. The laws of that way are not known. But the symptoms are quite evident, and the causes are indicated in what is known of the mechanisms. The established facts would seem to point out the line of endeavor. It is that line of endeavor which is the foundation of the successful methods of Dr. Bates.
Many can produce a strabismus in one eye, or both eyes, at will. I saw a man make his eyes roll in unison like a moving figure eight; and he could hold them wherever he wished. A famous German movie star, in Hollywood, acted realistic parts in some very tragic scenes. Several times in the performance, at a very tense moment, his eyes showed an extreme strabismus which disappeared instantly when be had finished that specific portrayal. Such well-established facts are the warrant for the technique in the Bates method that is to be used in the treatment of strabismus.
I might mention here many other abnormal functions, and some actually diseased conditions, reported by Dr. Bates as cured by his method of treatment; but I do not feel that to be necessary for the purpose of this book.
There is one remarkable case which supports amply the truth of that claim of Dr. Bates.
Aldous Huxley, an author famous over the civilized world as a writer of books, published by Harper, on different scientific subjects, has written a book entitled THE ART OF SEEING.
He reports that for many years he consulted eye spe. cialists here and abroad about a specific disease of his eyes. He was becoming totally blind. The specialists all informed him there was no possible cure for the condition. Finally he was cured, and his eyes are normal, by the method of Dr. Bates.
But SEEING is not an art. It is an endowment. Huxley was cured because his scientific mind developed a conviction that there was a power born in him which could correct the abnormal process that was destroying his sight. As Alexis Carrel hos worded it, he demonstrated another case in which "Psychology contacted physiology and effected a quick re. pair".
Finally, however, I must call attention, as a most vital concern, to a statement in a much read journal published by the American Medical Association. An ophthalmologist proclaimed that every infant's eyes should be examined by a specialist, because it is possible they are already abnormal. He then asserted that if the said specialist decided the infant should be made to wear glass lenses at one year of age, the spectacles should be attached to the infant at once. Remember that the eye specialist contends that defects of vision are not curable, and lenses must be made stronge as the eyes become more defective.
Certainly that statement, in that paper, does not represent, and is not consistent with the attitude, or even the consciousness of the medical profession in general. It is a fact that the mass of general practitioners of medicine, and even many eye specialists I believe, have not even heard of Dr. Bates, or his method, and surely would not approve o imposing glasses on a year old infant.