Dr. William Bates (1860 – 1931) was an American physician and ophthalmologist, who innovatively developed what became known as the "Bates Method" for eyesight correction. The Bates Method was, and is still, controversial: Dr. Bates theorized that vision improvement does not occur by changing the power of the lens; instead, relaxation of the eye through eye exercise can correct vision.
Given that the Bates Method is a very simple and natural way for eyesight correction, it has become more widely known and recognized after many decades of controversy and debates. Today, many scientists and eye doctors still find it difficult to accept some of his unconventional theories of vision improvement.
Dr. Bates’ fundamental theories of eyesight correction are as follows:
- The conditions of the eye are constantly changing, resulting in constant changes in the shape of the eyeball.
- The focus of the eye is constantly changing too (it is always looking at close and distant objects), resulting in the constant shifting of the eye.
The human eye is able to see in spite of these constant changes in the eye because the normal eye can adapt or adjust to these changes—known as “eye accommodation.”
However, eye accommodation may deteriorate due to many factors, such as weak eye muscles, poor light conditions, impaired macula (responsible for visual details). Because of these factors, over time, the eye cannot accommodate itself to see clearly, resulting in blurry vision.
The Conventional Treatment of Vision Problems
The conventional professionals and eye doctors prescribe eyeglasses and contacts with the specific purpose of making the eye see more clearly, as well as preventing further eyestrain through clearer vision.
The conventional treatment is based on the belief that weak vision is due to incorrect refraction on the retina because of the distorted eye lens; therefore, to correct the impaired vision, corrective lenses are used to correct the refraction due to the distorted lens.
Dr. Bates’ Treatment of Weak Vision
Dr. Bates completely disagreed with the conventional theory of distorted lens. According to Dr. Bates, the conventional treatment is WRONG because the eye is constantly changing, so much that the eye prescriptions (which are constant) in corrective lenses may not help the patients in certain conditions; quite the contrary, they unduly increase their eyestrain. That is to say, if the eye is forced to see in different eye conditions with the same corrective lenses, the eye will have to strain itself to see in different conditions, and thus causing further eyestrain. That explains that once you wear prescription lenses, there is no turning back: that is, your vision will only get worse, not better. Eyeglasses or contacts are only crutches, not solutions to vision problems.
Accordingly, Dr. Bates recommended not wearing glasses, and seeing without straining the eye. His method includes the use of eye exercise to relax the eye, as well as to improve vision while not wearing eyeglasses or contacts.
Dr. Bates’ explanation was that what might fit the eye (i.e. the prescriptions) at one moment might not be appropriate at another moment, given that the conditions of the eye are constantly changing. In addition, because the eye is capable of adapting and adjusting to different conditions (eye accommodation), wearing corrective lenses will deprive the eye of such accommodation, and thus leading to further vision deterioration. That was the reason for his objection to wearing corrective lenses.
To Wear Or Not To Wear Eyeglasses?
With the billion-dollar optical industry flexing its muscle, the Bates Method was a controversy during the days of Dr. Bates, and will continue to be one in the years to come. The decision to wear or not to wear eyeglasses is all yours.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau