We know that exercising our muscles is good for our health. What about eye exercises to improve eyesight? While there are no effective eye exercises for astigmatism, myopia, or hyperopia, otherwise known as refractive errors, eye exercises can help with optimizing visual skills. Vision therapy, a type of physical therapy for the eyes, has been shown to improve certain conditions involving eye alignment and focusing. During vision therapy, a patient is prescribed a set of eye exercises for lazy eye, among other conditions. While being under an eye doctor’s care can provide more guidance on how to use eye exercises, there are some eye muscle exercises that can be done at home. While I wouldn’t expect these eye exercises to improve vision fast, with diligence, they can gradually help with focusing issues and eyestrain.

Benefits of Eye Exercises

Exercise for your eyes, traditionally in the form of vision therapy, can help to ensure that the two eyes work together effectively. There are common symptoms that may indicate that eye strengthening exercises may be useful. These include skipping lines or words while reading, closing an eye, eyestrain, and headache. Vision therapy can address problems with eye turn (strabismus) and lazy eye (amblyopia), eye tracking (saccadic dysfunction), and eye teaming (convergence insufficiency). Lazy eye exercises have been shown to be particularly helpful in correcting this condition, especially when it’s caught early.

How To Improve Eyesight — Best Eye Exercises

How to Exercise Your Eyes

Palming

Palming is a yogic eye exercise, suggesting relaxing the muscles around the eyes, reducing eye fatigue. To palm, start by rubbing your hands together to warm them up. Close your eyes and place the palm of each hand over the corresponding cheekbone. Cup your hand over each eye and breathe deeply for five minutes.

Blinking

When we spend time on digital devices, our blink rate slows down. This can cause the eyes to dry out, making them feel sandy, gritty, and tired. Taking the time to consciously blink can restore the tear film. Blinking pumps the oil glands in the eyelids, stimulating their lubricating secretions. It also helps to spread the tears over the eyes. A blinking exercise may involve closing the eyes, pausing for two seconds, then opening them again. While the eyes are closed, the eyelids can be consciously squeezed tight for extra stimulation of the oil glands.

Pencil Push-ups

Pencil push-ups are commonly used to train the eyes to move in toward one another or converge when looking at a near object. To do a pencil push-up, hold a pencil at arm’s length while wearing your best near vision correction. Focus on the tip of the eraser. If there is a letter on the eraser, get it in focus, so it’s legible. Now slowly move the pencil towards your nose, keeping the eraser or letter single and focused. Once it goes double, draw it away from the eyes again. Repeat several times.

Near and Far Focus

Alternating between near and far focus helps to train your focusing system to engage and relax appropriately. Hold your thumb 10 inches from your face and focus on it for 15 seconds. Alternatively, you can hold a near object with a letter on it to better engage your focusing system. After fifteen seconds, shift your gaze to a target 20 feet (6 meters) away, and again, hold your focus for 15 seconds. Return to your thumb. Repeat several times.

Figure Eight

Tracking an object with the eyes can be challenging for some. To work on this, one can practice doing figure eights. Pick a point on the floor 10 feet away from you. With your eyes, trace an imaginary figure eight. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch directions.

20-20-20 Rule

When we use our eyes for near work, our focusing system can become fatigued. Our eyes can also dry out. Scheduling regular breaks can help to alleviate some of this strain. The 20-20-20 rule is easy to remember. For every 20 minutes of near work, look at a target 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can now return to your near activity.

Brock String

The Brock String was developed by Frederick Brock of Switzerland, a pioneer in vision therapy. It can be used for a variety of exercises to train the visual system. To set up the Brock String, tie a loop on each end of the string. Attach one loop to a doorknob. Position the three beads. To do so, you’ll want to place the distance bead closest to the doorknob. The middle bead should sit 2-5 feet from you. The near bead should be 6 inches from your nose. Hold the string taught directly under your nose. A sequence of exercises can be performed with the Brock String to train the eyes in tracking, alignment, and focusing.

Barrel Card

The barrel card trains the eyes to turn in together, or converge, to view a near object. To begin, hold the barrel card parallel to your nose so the circles are aligned horizontally, and the largest circles are furthest away from the nose. Close each eye. One eye will see red circles, while the other will see green ones. Adjust as necessary to ensure that each eye sees the same amount of the card and there is no tilt. Now, focus your eyes on the circles furthest away from you. The two images should overlap, producing a single red-green circle. After 5 seconds, shift your gaze to the middle circle. Finally, move your gaze to the smallest closest circle. It is important to note that the circles which you are not focused on will appear double; this is normal. Once you have completed one cycle, relax your eyes. You should work up to completing 10 cycles, holding for 10 seconds on each of the three circles.

Other Tips to Increase Eyesight

Tips to Increase Eyesight If you’re looking for guidance when it comes to exercise for your eyes, talk to your eye doctor. Even lazy eye exercises for adults have shown success with the right therapy. Your doctor can provide tailored eye exercises for better vision or refer you to someone who can.

Conclusion

Do eye exercises work? They certainly can, for specific key conditions. Doing eye exercises to improve vision can be useful, keeping in mind that they can’t solve every eye problem. When it comes to how to exercise your eyes, some doctors may be able to provide guidance. It’s also important to see an eye care professional regularly for comprehensive exams to ensure that nothing more serious is causing your vision issues. If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your eyesight, call Kraff Eye Institute today at (312) 444-1111. Dr. Colman R. Kraff Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser. Home » What’s New » Can Simple Eye Exercises Really Improve the Health of Your Eyes? Mar 05, 2017 Many studies have been conducted to find out if eye exercises can improve your physical vision, making it possible to see again without glasses or contact lenses. However, these studies have disproved this myth. Though your eye muscles can be strengthened, your vision will not be improved enough to lose the need for glasses or contacts because “your need for glasses is based on the shape of your eye, the size of your pupil, and the ability to shift focus…” (Dailey, WebMD). Eye exercises will strengthen weak eye muscles, improving blood circulation and muscle tone. Your eye muscles should be tone in order to achieve the sharpest vision possible, with help from glasses and contacts, if needed. This toning helps to minimize eye strain, allowing your eyes to work more efficiently. The following are a few eye exercises that can help improve your eyes’ muscle tone:

  • Figure Eight: According to Dailey, tracing an imaginary horizontal figure eight with your eyes can slow the progression of myopia, or nearsightedness.
  • Eye Circles: While sitting or standing, move your eyes in a clockwise direction 20 times, making the circle as wide as you can. Relax for 10 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction. Doing this three times daily will help to stretch your eye muscles.
  • Focus Shift: Change the focus of both of your eyes by looking at a far-away object for 6 seconds, until it becomes clear. Then, shift your gaze to a close object for 6 seconds, until it becomes clear. Do this exercise repeatedly until your eyes feel slightly tired.

Some exercises are focused specifically for patients with astigmatism in one of both of their eyes. Rebuild Your Vision defines astigmatism as “…the front surface of your cornea not curving the way it should: usually one side will be more flat than the other. Light tries to pass through the cornea but because of the incorrect curving, the light does not pass through evenly and this results in the blurry vision you may be experiencing.”

  • A simple exercise to combat your astigmatism involves your head, that’s it! Many people with astigmatism will tilt their head to one side, compensating for one of their eyes. Instead of tilting your head in one direction, try tilting it opposite of what feels comfortable or keep it straight. This exercise will help your brain understand what “straight ahead” truly is.
  • Another exercise to help your eyes focus and work together involves a type of focus shift. Without glasses, begin reading text (a book, article, ect.) and then shift your gaze to a different object on the desk (anything other than a line of text). Continue back to the text and keep reading. Switch back and forth until your eyes feel tired, but not strained.

Complete Eye Care’s very own vision therapy specialist, Dr. Hilary Gesford, often incorporates several of these exercises in her office-based vision therapy program for patients. Dr. Gesford specializes in helping kids and adults improve their eye teaming, eye focusing, and eye tracking to alleviate eye strain and headaches and to enhance overall performance in all areas of everyday life. In conjunction with the correct prescription glasses, eye exercises can strengthen your eye muscles and allow your eyes to be more effective. Also, vitamins such as MacuHealth can help to improve overall eye health and slow or prevent harmful ocular diseases. Information in this article was obtained through the following resources: Rebuild Your Vision: Eye Exercises for Astigmatism WebMD: Natural Vision Correction: Does it Work? http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/features/natural-vision-correction-does-it-work WebMD: Eye Exercises http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-exercises Livestrong.com: Exercises to Strengthen Weak Eye Muscles http://www.livestrong.com/article/219218-exercises-to-strengthen-weak-eye-muscles/ By age 40, you may begin to notice slight changes in your eyesight that, if left untreated, can worsen. Initially, you may find yourself holding papers and menus at arm’s length to see words more clearly or needing more light to read comfortably. Maybe you’re even having difficulty driving at night because of glare. Changes in eyesight are a significant health problem for older adults and can majorly affect your sense of independence and overall quality of life. Here’s what you should know about changes in vision as you age and ways to help preserve your eyesight.

How To Improve Your Eyesight Naturally

Preventive healthcare includes taking care of your eyesight. The National Institute for Aging offers the following tips for preserving your vision.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Having problems with your eyes is common, but they can go unnoticed for a long time. A dilated eye exam is vital to finding eye problems early, which is when treatment is most effective. The recommended frequency of dilated eye exams can vary, so ask your doctor what schedule is best for you. The National Institute for Aging suggests completing a dilated eye exam every one to two years if:

  • You’re at least 60 years old.
  • You’re African American and at least 40 years old.
  • You have a family history of glaucoma.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have hypertension.

Testing for visual acuity, depth perception, eye alignment and eye movement are all part of this exam. After administering dilating eye drops, your eye doctor can see inside your eyes and check for signs of health problems.

Wear Protection to Block Harmful UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun perpetually poses a danger to your eyes. In fact, length of UV radiation exposure is linked to the risk of developing cataracts, eye cancer and macular degeneration. When spending time outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat and quality sunglasses that provide UV protection.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is as unhealthy for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. It puts you at a higher risk of developing severe eye conditions that can cause vision loss or blindness. The development of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are strongly linked to smoking.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

Diet is an important factor that can have long-term effects on eye health. Eating a balanced diet high in fruit and green leafy vegetables—which contain carotenoids, zinc, vitamins C and E—is essential. Meanwhile, coldwater fish, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, may be protective against many age-related eye diseases.

Stay Physically Active

Researchers found participants who met physical activity guidelines—150 minutes of activity a week—had a 50% lower risk of glaucoma than those considered entirely sedentary[1]Chong Seong NT, Yaakub A, Jalil RA, et al. Effect of physical activity on severity of primary angle closure glaucoma. Ther Adv Ophthalmol. 2019;11:2515841419864855. . Moreover, people with the highest cardiovascular fitness had a 40% lower glaucoma risk than those at the lowest fitness levels. People who both met the fitness guidelines and were in the highest fitness category had the lowest risk for developing glaucoma.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A recent study found obesity to be a risk factor for cataracts[2]Jacob L, Smith L, Koyanagi A, et al. Associations between obesity and ocular health in Spanish adults. Lifestyle Medicine. 2020;(lim2.5). . Meanwhile, additional research shows an association between morbid obesity and elevated intraocular pressure and retinopathy, increasing the risk for glaucoma[3]Teberik K, Eski MT, Doğan S, Pehlivan M, Kaya M. Ocular abnormalities in morbid obesity. Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2019;82(1):6-11. .

Carefully Manage Diabetes

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association[4]Solomon SD, Chew E, Duh EJ, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: A position statement by the American diabetes association. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(3):412-418. . These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma. Since diabetic retinopathy is a complication of both type 1 and 2 diabetes, it’s vital to keep blood glucose levels under control—the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy depends on how long you’ve had diabetes and how well you control your glucose levels.

Keep an Eye on Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure causes damage to blood vessels in the retina. The severity of the damage depends on the blood pressure measurement and the length of time it’s elevated. Your risk of damage and vision loss increases if you have high cholesterol—poor blood flow causes damage to the nerves and blockage of the arteries and veins.

Rest Your Eyes

Are you looking at a screen for all or part of your day in this digital age? The American Association of Ophthalmology (AOA) recommends taking regular breaks by using the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This practice can help reduce eye strain. “To keep eyes healthy, the same things that keep the rest of you healthy work best,” says Sebastian Heersink, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Eye Center South in Dothan, Alabama. “Eat well, avoid smoking, get exercise, wear sunglasses (and safety glasses) and learn your family medical and eye history so you and your eye doctor can proactively care for your eyes during your regular eye visits.” Set Your Sights On Optimal Eye Health Nature Made Vision Based on the AREDS 2 Formula is a vision supplement specially formulated to do just that. Lutein and Zeaxanthin work to filter out blue light, while vitamins c and e help provide antioxidant support.

Why Does Vision Get Worse With Age?

Many factors play a role in how well your eyes age, and each eye disorder affects different parts of the eye, which can cause changes in your eyesight. A few common age-related vision changes include:

  • Decreased visual acuity. With a decrease in visual acuity, you notice less detail in objects. It’s tested during an eye exam when you stand 20 feet from the eye chart and are asked to read a line of letters from the chart without wearing your glasses or contact lenses. You may also be asked to cover one eye at a time and read aloud the smallest letters you can see on the chart.
  • Decreases in contrast sensitivity. Simply put, your eyes are less able to detect small changes in light. Difficulty with driving at night is a common example of decreased contrast sensitivity. For this test, the examiner asks you to look at a chart with rows of letters and name the letters in ambient lighting. As the test progresses, the contrast between the letters and the background decreases so it’s harder to distinguish what’s written.
  • Diminished capacity to accommodate. To test for accommodation, the doctor has you look at a near reading card and then adds prescription lenses until the target becomes clear.
  • Heightened sensitivity to glare. While driving, you may increasingly notice glare from headlights at night or sun reflecting off windshields during the day. The scattering of the light entering your eye due to changes to your eye lens causes this intense glare.

How Does LASIK Surgery Improve Vision?

LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a corrective vision surgery performed by eye doctors on patients with imperfect vision but otherwise healthy eyes. Approximately 600,000 U.S. adults undergo LASIK or similar surgery each year, according to a study in American Family Physician. Lasik is a refractive surgery, meaning it reshapes the cornea with a laser to improve nearsightedness and farsightedness, each of which is caused by a mismatch between the length of the eye itself and the cornea and lens, leading to refractive error. LASIK can also be used to correct astigmatism. Candidates for LASIK must be at least 18 years old, as eyesight can change throughout adolescence. Candidates must also have stable vision for at least one year prior to the procedure and have healthy eye tissues. It’s important to note that in older adults with a previous history of refractive surgery, later surgeries for cataracts should be done with preoperative eye measurements. LASIK should not be performed on people using high-dose steroids, who are pregnant or lactating or who have uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. LASIK may also interfere with glaucoma testing, making an early diagnosis more difficult. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t usually cover the cost of LASIK, which can range from about $1,000 to $4,000 per eye.

Vitamins for Eye Health

Balanced nutrition is a key component of maintaining eye health. If you feel like your diet isn’t covering the essential eye health bases mentioned above—in particular lots of fruits, green leafy vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like fish)—there are a few science-backed vitamins you may consider taking in supplement form (or by increasing foods containing these vitamins in your diet). Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E. The lens and retina suffer from oxidative damage and stress as we age due to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure and other hazards. Studies show these vitamins can protect against oxidative stress—an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. Additionally, research notes Vitamins C and E to be protective against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in combination with zinc , according to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology. Foods rich in vitamin A include fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, beef liver and fish oils, among others. The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A in adults is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, other fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and tomatoes, and foods fortified with Vitamin C, such as TK. The upper limit of vitamin C intake in adults per day is 2,000 milligrams. Vitamin E rich foods include vegetable oils, especially wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and certain fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals. The RDA of vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams. Zinc, when combined with certain antioxidants, is shown to protect against the progression of AMD and is also important in maintaining retna health. Foods rich in zinc include almonds, cashews, beans, oysters, chickpeas and dark poultry meat, and RDA of zinc in adults is 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams a day for women. Carotenoids, in particular lutein and zeaxanthin, are associated with a lower risk of developing cataracts and AMD. Parsley, spinach, kale and egg yolks are all rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, benefit eye health. In fact, One study included in Nutrients shows that people eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least once per week are at a lower risk of developing early onset AMD. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish and certain oils, such as flaxseed oil. As it’s not produced by the body, Omega-3 is considered an essential fatty acid and must be obtained from diet or supplementation. Before adding a vitamin or supplement to your wellness routine, speak with your health care provider to determine what might be right for you as well as to ensure proper dosing.

Using the 20-20-20 Rule to Prevent Eye Strain

The 20-20-20 rule is a relatively easy practice to incorporate into your daily routine if you spend a lot of time looking at computer screens. Essentially, every 20 minutes you spend 20 minutes focusing your eyes on something 20 feet away, according to the National Institute on Aging. More than 60 million people worldwide experience symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS), which the AOA says can include eye strain and headaches, eye irritation, dryness and burning, as well as blurred vision and neck and shoulder pain. The AOA recommends the 20-20-20 rule to reduce these symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do carrots really help your eyesight?

Carrots contain high levels of beta carotene—an orange pigment and carotenoid that is converted into vitamin A in the body— and may protect against AMD and other age related eye diseases.

What is the best vision you can have?

When measuring visual acuity, 20/20 is considered normal. This means you can see clearly at 20 feet away what should normally be seen from that distance. However, 20/20 vision is not necessarily perfect vision, as visual acuity only accounts for sharpness and clarity, not depth perception, color vision, eye coordination, focusing ability or other elements of sight.

What visual acuity is considered legally blind?

To be considered legally blind, you must have a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better-seeing eye using the best correction possible (via contact lenses or glasses or ). This means that you must only be 20 feet away to see something another person can see from a 200 foot distance.

Does wearing glasses weaken your eyes?

No, wearing glasses prescribed by an eye doctor for a vision condition does not make your eyes weak. Wearing glasses with corrective lenses improves your vision while you are wearing them, but does not change your eye health


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