New York Medical Journal, May 8, 1915, Vol 101, No 19.
Table of Contents
In most textbooks on ophthalmology it is clearly stated that errors of refraction are incurable, and that relief of the symptoms can be obtained only with the aid of glasses. My investigations during the past twenty-five years have convinced me and others that errors of refraction can be cured by treatment without glasses.
I have been engaged during the past three years in the physiological laboratory of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University New York, in a series of experiments on the eyes of animals, which show, 1 believe, that the prevalent ideas concerning the causes of errors of refraction are not correct. Those ideas ascribe such errors to permanent, innate, or acquired deformations of the eyeball. Vy experiments semi to demonstrate that we can go farther back and find such deformations in abnormal strain of the extrinsic muscles of the eye. In animals, nnyopic refraction is produced by excessive contraction or strain of the oblique mus- cles; hypermetropic refraction by an excessive con- traction or strain of the recti muscles; and astigma- tism by a niodification of the action of the extrinsic muscles.
Experiments on the Eyes of Animals, Conclusions.
- A strain of two or more of the.extrinsic eye muscles produced by electrical stimulation or ad- vancement is always followed by an error of refrac- tion. Relaxation of these muscles by one or more tenotomies always prevents the production of errors of refraction by a strain.
- Neither the crystalline lens nor the ciliary muscle is a factor in the production of either myopic refraction or accommodation. (See Bulletin of the New York Zoological Society for November, 1914.)
- When the two oblique muscles are present and active, myopic refraction or accommodation is al- ways produced by:
- Electrical stimulation of the eyeball;
- Electrical stimulation of either the third or fourth nerves near their origins in the brain;
- Traction inward of the insertion of either the superior or the inferior obliques;
- Advancement or a tucking operation of one or both obliques.
- After myopic refraction is produced, it becomes increased after a tenotomy of one or more of the recti.
- Myopic refraction is never produced by electrical stimulation
- After a tenotomy of one or both obliques;
- After the subconjunctival injection of a two per cent. solution of atropine sulphate deep into the orbit. Instillation of atropine in the conjunctival sac may lessen but. not prevent the experimental production of myopic refraction.
- After a tenotomy of one or both obliques, and when two or more of the recti muscles are present and active or capable of moving the eyeball in two or more directions, hypermetropic refraction is a]- ways produced by
- Electrical stimulation of the eyeball;
- Electrical stimulation of the third nerve near its origin in the brain;
- Traction forward of the insertion of one rectus muscle;
- An advancement or tucking operation of one or more of the recti.
- Hypermetropic refraction is never produced by electric stimulation :
- After a tenotomy of all the recti ;
- After the subconjunctival injection of a two per cent. solution of atropine deep in the orbit; or by instillation into the conjunctival sac.
- Astigmatism is usually produced and combined with myopic or hypermetropic refraction produced experimentally.
- Mixed astigmatism is produced by a traction of the insertion of the superior rectus directly upward, and in other ways. In these cases myopic refraction in one meridian as mentioned above in normal eyes. Atropine, as in normal eyes, prevents the production of myopic, hypermetropic, and astigmatic refraction, in lensless eyes by electrical stimulation.
The following are details of experiments on the eyes of animals :
Experiments on Accommodation
A perch was placed in a square glass jar 12″ by 6″ by 6″ nearly filled with. water, about two drams of ether was added and the top was covered with a hoard. In half an hour the perch became less active and was removed from the jar. It was difficult or impossible to measure:the refraction satisfactorily by the aid of the retinoscope in the air. The fish was returned to the glass jar, head neat the surface, and was supported by fixation forceps fastened to the lower jaw. With the eye immersed the refraction by retinoscopy was nearly normal. At three feet distant with a plane mirror, self illuminated by electric tight, the battery being in the handle of the retinoscope, the shadow in the pupil moved with the movement of the mirror with, a convex spherical glass plus 1 D. held close to the eye of the perch, and with plus 2 D. the shadow moved in the opposite direction.
When the eye was examined in the. air, the illumination of the retina or the light reflex obtained was fainter, but sufficient to enable the observer to note that the refraction was nearly the same as when the eye, was immersed in the water. On continued exposure to the air, but even in the than five minutes, no light reflex from the pupil was ob- tained with the retinoscope. However, immediately after the reimmersion into water a bright reflex was visible in the pupil when the light was reflected into the pupil by the retinoscope.
The head of the perch was lifted above the surface of the water and the eye was stimulated with the faradic current. Muscular movements of the head and body of the fish were manifest, The eye was then immersed. Retinoscopy now indicated myopic. refraction in all meridians; or to other words, accommodation. The myopia remained for some minutes and then gradually subsided until it disappeared altogether, the eye becoming nearly normal as before. The same phenomena occurred with the other eye. The perch was removed from the water and placed on a table, and the superior oblique of the right eye was cut transversely. Electrical stimulation of the right eye did not then produce accommodation as m the left eye. Conclusion: The ciliary muscle does not produce accommodation in the perch.
In another experiment on a rock bass, both eyes were found to be emmetropic when examined in water. Electrical stimulation of the right eye produced myopic refraction or accommodation.. The superior oblique was then divided. after which electrical stimulation produced no accommodation.. The divided superior oblique was next united by a suture. Electrical. stimulation then produced accommodation as at first.
Both the superior and inferior obliques were then removed from the right eye. Twenty-four hours later, ten days later, and even six weeks later, electrical stimulation of the right eye produced no accommodation at any time, but always resulted in hypermetropia. which was usually corrected by plus S D. sphere. Electrical stimulation of the left or nonoperated eye on the same dates always produced accommodation or myopic refraction. These experiments were witnessed and confirmed by a number of physicians.
Decapitated Dog, Emmetropic
Electrical stimulation of the eyeball produced myopic astigmatism which was corrected by minus 2 D. cylinder, 90°. After tenotomy of the superior oblique, electrical stimulation produced compound hypermetropic astigmatism, which was corrected by convex 2D. and convex 3D. cylinder, 180°. After tenotomy, of the superior rectus, the refraction became normal and was not changed to myopic or hypermetropic refraction by electrical stimulation. This experiment is offered as additional evidence that the lens is not a factor in the production of myopic refraction or accommodation. It also indicates that the obliques produce myopic refraction and that the recta produce hypermetropic refraction.
Congenital absence of one oblique. Strong evidence that the obliques are the muscles that produce myopic refraction or accommodation is found in the fact that while electrical stimulation of the oblique eye muscles always produces accommodation when: the two obliques are present and active; it is never produced in animals with a congenital absence of one oblique. Moreover, when the countertraction is supplied by a suture inserted near the usual location of the absent oblique in these cases, accommodation. is always produced by electrical stimulation. The following experiment illustrates this:
Dogfish, Decapitated, Emmetropic
Electric stimulation on the eye produced no accommodation. The inferior oblique was absent and a suture was inserted in its usual location. Accommoclation was then produced by electrical stimulation of. either the eyeball or the fourth nerve near its origin in the brain. A two per cent. solution of atropine sulphate was applied to the fourth nerve and thereafter electrical stimulation of the fourth nerve produced no accommodation. It should be mentioned that soon after the removal of the lower lid the cornea became cloudy and the refraction could not be measured by retinoscopy. Whenever electrical stimulation or advancement of one oblique did not produce myopic refraction or accommodation, investigation always revealed the absence of one oblique; or, as in all cats observed; an inactive or insufficient oblique.
Rabbit, Production of Myopia
A rabbit had hypermetropia 4 D.S. The superior oblique was advanced by a tucking operation and the refraction was then corrected by convex 2 D.S. and convex 2 D.C., 180°. The eye was examined frequently during fourteen days, and remained unchanged. Seventeen days after the operation the refraction had returned to convex 4 D.S., the amount existing before the advancement of the muscle. Examination of the site of the operation showed that the suture inserted in the muscle had cut its way through and the oblique was no longer shortened.
A large number of rabbits were operated upon by advancement of either the superior or inferior oblique or of both at the same or at different times, without obtaining a permanent production of myopia. In all cases the stature cut through the delicate ribbonlike muscle very soon; generally in a few days, when the refraction became the same as before the operation. To increase the effect of the advancement, a tenotomy of one or more of the recti was frequently done without much if any permanent effect.
Production of Hypermetropia in Carp, Decapitated, Emmetropic
Had hypermetropic astigmatism after advancement of the superior rectus which was corrected by convex 5 D.C., 180°. After electrical stimulation of the eyeball, the error of refraction was corrected by concave 2 D.S. and convex 11 D.C., 180°; after tenotomy of the superior oblique the error of refraction was corrected by convex 16 D.C., 180°. Thus, after the production of hypermetropic astigmatism, electrical stimulation produced myopic refraction in one meridian and increased the amount in the hypermetropic meridian. After tenotomy of the superior oblique. the hypermetropic meridian was increased, while the normal meridian remained unchanged. In eyes which have not been operated upon, a tenotomy of one or both obliques does not produce hypermetropia nor increase it when it .is present. Neither does a tenotomy of one or all of the recti produce myopia.
Decapitated Cat, Emmetropic
Electrical stimulation of the eyeball produced hypermetropia of 1 D.S. After tenotomy of the superior oblique, there was no change in the refraction and electrical stimulation of the eye produced more hypermetropia. which was corrected by convex 9 D.S. Tenotomy of the superior rectus did not change the refraction from the normal, but thereafter electrical stimulation produced no hypermetropia. The same results were obtained in many other cats and no exceptions were observed. Conclusion: Hypermetropia is produced in the eyes of cats by electrical stimulation before and after tenotomy of the superior oblique and is prevented by a tenotomy of one or more of the recti.
Experiments on Lensless Eyes
By retinoscopy both eyes were emmetropic. Electrical stimulation of each eyeball produced accommodation or myopic refraction. Simple extraction of the lens with the aid of a spoon was done; after a peripheral corneal section. Eleven days later, the eye was healed and the pupil was sufficiently clear to measure the refraction objectively with the aid of the retinoscope. With the eye Immersed in water the refraction was corrected by convex 23 D.S. Electrical stimulation produced less hypermetropla; or in other words, accommodation.
Twenty-four hours after decapitation the right eye was emmetropic by retinoscopy. A narrow bladed cataract knife was made to enter the interior of the eyeball from above and just behind the equator. The point of the knife was pushed downward and forward and passed through the periphery of the lens into the area of. the pupil. The point with the flat surface of the blade looking forward was then pressed backward, forcing the lens downward below the axis. of vision. The refraction was then corrected by convex 17 D.S. With the aid of a pair of fixation forceps, the insertion of the superior oblique was rotated inward and backward. For some minutes the refraction was corrected by convex 15 D.S.: i.e., myopic refraction of 2 D. was produced. Traction upward and forward of the insertion of the. superior oblique was made. The refraction was then corrected by convex 20 D.S.: i. e., hypermetropic refraction of 3 D. was produced. Traction of the insertion of the superior oblique upward and nearly parallel to the plane of the iris was made. The refraction was then corrected by convex 15 D. S. and convex 3 D.C. at 180°: i.e., mixed astigmatism, corrected by concave 2 D.C. 180° and convex 1 D.C. 90° was produced.
Carp, Decapitated, Emmetropic
The left lens was pushed outside the axis of vision by Dr. C. Barnert. The refraction was corrected by convex 16 D.S. After electrical stimulation the refraction was corrected by convex 13 D.S., i. e:, accommodation of 3 D.S. was produced.
Pearl Roach, Emmetropic
The lens of the left eye was dislocated outside the axis of vision and the refraction was corrected by convex 16 D.S. After electrical stimulation the refraction was corrected by convex 14 D.S., i. e., accommodation of 2 D.S. was produced. These last two experiments were witnessed by three other physicians.
Simple extraction of the lens of the right eye. Two months later, by retinoscopy, hypermetropia of 17 D.S. Electrical stimulation lessened the hypermetropia or produced accommodation, the error of refraction being corrected by convex 14 D.S.. and convex 2 D.C. 180°. In other experiments on rabbits, after the removal of the lens, the hypermetropia was always lessened or accommodation was produced by electrical stimulation.
Experiments with Atropine
Both eyes were emmetropic. Electrical stimulation did not produce myopic refraction or accommodation. The superior oblique of both eyes was advanced without altering the refraction, and electrical stimulation then produced accommodation. The. third and fourth nerves were exposed near their origins in the brain. Electrical stimulation of either nerve produced accommodation. A small piece of cotton wet with a two per cent. solution of atropine sulphate in 0.8 per cent. chloride of sodium solution was placed in contact with the third nerve near its origin. In less than one minute an electrical stimulation of the third nerve did not, while stimulation by electricity of the fourth nerve, did produce accommodation. After the atropine solution was applied to the fourth nerve, electrical stimulation of the fourth nerve did not produce accommodation. The origins of the third and fourth nerves were washed with an 0.8. per cent. salt solution, clean of atropine. After this, electrical stimulation of either nerve produced accommodation. Cotton wet with atropine solution was next applied to the fourth nerve and electrical stimulation did not produce accommodation, although accommodation was possible through stimulation of the third nerve. The atropine was again applied to both nerves, and electrical stimulation of either or both failed to produce accommodation. The atropine was then washed off the nerves and the experiment repeated with the same results as before. Always after atropine was applied to both nerves and electrical stimulation of one or both failed to produce accommodation, the application of the electrical current to the eyeball resulted in accommodation or myopic refraction. Accommodation was produced two hours after the cat was decapitated in a room at a temperature below 70° F.
Electrical stimulation produced myopic refraction or. accommodation. After tenotomy of the superior oblique, electrical stimulation produced hypermetropia of 4 D.S. After the subconjunctival injection deep in the orbit of five minims of a two per cent. solution of atropine sulphate in 0.8 per cent. chloride of sodium, there was no change in the refraction upon electrical stimulation; in other words, atropine injected deep into the orbit prevented the production of hypermetropic refraction by electrical stimulation.
Rabbit with hypermetropia of 4 D.S. Atropine sulphate two per cent. solution instilled to the conjunctival sac daily for two weeks, did not change the refraction. Electrical stimulation produced myopic refraction or accommodation to the same degree apparently as before the atropine was instilled.
From this and other experiments the impression was obtained that the instillation of atropine in the conjunctival sac had little or no effect in preventing accommodation by electrical stimulation. In other experiments on normal eyes and eyes with hypermetropia the injection of atropine deep into the orbit usually prevented accommodation or myopic refraction by electrical stimulation.
Decapitated Carp, Emmetropic
A thread was fastened to the insertion of the. superior oblique. Traction of the thread inward and forward, or downward and forward, produced simple hypermetropia which was corrected by convex 5 D.S.; traction backward and inward caused simple myopia; while traction in the plane of the iris produced mixed astigmatism: Myopia, myopic astigmatism, compound myopic astigmatism, hypermetropia, hypermetropic astigmatism, compound hypermetropic astigmatism, or mixed astigmatism were all produced by traction on the thread in various directions.
Decapitated Carp, Emmetropic
Rotation downward and inward or in other directions with the aid of a suture fastened to the external rectus produced no change in the refraction of the right eye. Pulling strongly on the suture forward produced hypermetropia, which was corrected.by convex 5 D.S. Traction downward and forward and inward produced hypermetropic refraction which was corrected by convex 3 D.S., and convex 7 D.C. at 90°. Electrical stimulation produced an error of refraction which was corrected by convex 14 D.S. and concave 16 D.C. at 180°. After a tenotomy of the superior oblique, the error of refraction was corrected by convex 3 D.S. and 7 D.C. at 90°. Electrical stimulation then increased the hypermetropia in all meridians. which was corrected by convex 10 D.S: and convex 6 D.C. at 90°. After tenotomy of the superior rectus the hypermetropia disappeared and the eye became emmetropic. Electrical stimulation then produced no effect.
The point has been raised that while in rabbits, dogs, fishers. and other animals, traction of the two obliques may squeeze the eyeball transversely in such a way as always to lengthen it,, accommodation in the human eye cannot be produced in the same way. To determine the matter the following observation was made: A woman with myopia of 20 D.S., who consented to the experiment, had the inferior oblique exposed near its origin at the lower and inner part of the orbit by an incision through the lower lid. The tendon was grasped by fixation forceps and traction was made downward, inward, and backward. Bv simultaneous retinoscopy the myopia was found increased, indicating the production of myopic refraction or accommodation. This observation proved that accommodation can be produced in the human eye by traction of the inferior oblique.
Lucien Howe (Muscles of the Eye, 1, p. 68) has described the reflections from the cornea and posterior surfaces of the lens when the lens was tipped in various directions during accommodation. l have found that traction on the obliques or recti of the eyes of dogs, cats, rabbits, and fishes produces the same phenomenon, of tipping of the lens out, in, forward, or backward, which indicates that the symptoms of tipping of the lens that are as- umed to be due to the action of the ciliary muscle can be produced by the action of the extrinsic muscles. I believe that the ciliary muscle has nothing whatever to do with tipping of the lens, because after tenotomy of one oblique and one of the recti, the phenomena of tipping were not observed after electrical stimulation as they .were before.
Curvature of cornea. In rabbits the ophthalmometer indicated that accommodation was usually produced without changing the curvature of the cornea. The results were so constant as to warrant the belief that in the rabbit, as has been demonstrated in the human eye by Javal and others, accommodation is not produced by a change in the corneal curvature.
Ciliary muscle, Much has been written on the connection of the ciliary muscle with the production of accommodation. The theories of Helmholtz, Muller, Hess, Tscherning, and others. are well known. They are based largely on the changes which occur in the images of a source of light reflected from the anterior and posterior surfaces of the lens during accommodation. These images of Purkinje were studied in the eyes of rabbits, dogs, cats, and fishes before and after the production of accommodation by electrical stimulation. The same changes were observed at times as have been described by observers who studied the human eye. It was possible also by traction experiments, by varying the resultant of pulls on the eyeball, to obtain images which indicated various changes in the position and curvature of the lens. Fishes’ eyes, when examined after immersion in water. were favorable for the experiments because the reflections from the cornea were eliminated and it was easier to see the reflections from the anterior and posterior surfaces of the lens. After tenotomy of one or both obliques the images of Purkinje did not change their location on electrical stimulation of the eyeball, indicating that the curvature or location of the lens was not altered. The experiments offered strong evidence that the ciliary muscle is not a factor in changing the curvature of the lens during accommodation. They also reconciled the conflicting observations and theories of the many observers.
Bier’s experiment. Theodore Bier (Die Accostniodation des Auges in der Thierreihe, Wiener klinische lVochenschrift, 12, 1898) has stated that fishes’ eves when at rest are myopic and that in order to see distant objects clearly, the myopia is corrected by drawing back the lens closer to the retina with the aid of a muscle inside the eyeball connected with the lower margin of the lens. My experiments and observations disprove his theory. Fish can accommodate or adjust the focus to see distinctly at four inches, and this power of accommodation is always lost after a tenotomy of one oblique muscle. Electrical stimulation always produces myopic refraction when both of the,obliques are present and active, and this is never produced in fishes which have but one oblique, but after a suture is inserted in the usual location of the absent oblique to furnish counter-traction, electrical stimulation which contracts the oblique which is present has always produced accommodation. (See dogfish observation and experiment IV.) The removal of the lens does not prevent accommodation by electrical stimulation.
Observations on the Eyes of Human Beings
A large number of original observations on the eyes of adults and children with normal vision, on those with defective sight from errors of refraction, and on the eyes of adults after removal of the lens for cataract, and a study of the phenomena of sight in amblyopia ex anopsia, have tended to support the foregoing results from animal experimentation and have led to the following conclusions with reference to the human eye.
The sole cause of all uncomplicated or functional errors of refraction is a conscious or an unconscious effort or strain to see. The only remedy for this strain is relaxation. Relaxation or rest of the eyes is accomplished only by central fixation. These facts were obtained both objectively, with the aid of the retinoscopy, ophthalmoscope, and ophthalmometer: arid subjectively, from the testimony of the persons under examination.
The optic or visual axes are always parallel when a point at in infinite distance is regarded by each eye at the same time by central fixation. Muscular insufficiency or heterophoria is then always absent.
The lensless eye. After the lens was removed for cataract and the refraction for infinity was corrected by glasses the following observations were made: In all cases when the eye regarded a small letter of the Snellen test card at twenty feet by central fixation, simultaneous retinoscopy indicated that the glasses corrected the refraction. When a small letter was read by central fixation at twenty inches, simultaneous retinoscopy indicated that the eye was accommodated and that the myopic refraction or accommodation was corrected by a concave twenty inch spherical lens or minus 2 D.S. When the lensless eye with the distance glasses read a small letter by central fixation at thirteen inches, at ten inches, or a less distance. simultaneous retinoscopy always indicated that the eye was accurately focused. When the lensless eye read a small letter of the Snellen test card at twenty feet by eccentric fixation, simultaneous retinoscopy indicated either myopic refraction in one or all meridians or that the distance biasses were too strong. When a letter was regarded at twenty inches or less by eccentric fixation, simultanentis retinoscopy always indicated that the eye was focused for a greater distance in one or all meridians. In the lensless eye an effort to see near always produced hypermetropic refraction.
Central fixation. By central fixation is meant the ability of the eye to look directly at a point, and while doing so to see best with the center of the fovea or the centre of the sight of the retina. When a person with a normal eye which is capable usually of reading the Snellen test card at twenty feet with normal vision 20,/20, regards one small letter of the Snellen test card at twenty feet or regards one letter of diamond type, Jaeger No. 1, at a near point, say ten inches, by central fixation the following phenomena become manifest.
Subjective: By central fixation maximum vision is obtained. While the ability of the normal eye to read the twenty line at twenty feet in a good light is considered to be normal vision, a much greater acuity of vision is observed when the part of each letter that is regarded and seen better than the rest of the letter is smaller or more nearly approaches a point. Letters or parts of letters outside the point of fixation are always less distinct than those at the fixation point. When the top of a small letter at twenty feet is regarded by central fixation the bottom of the same letter appears less black, but the whole letter is clearer, the black appears a darker shade of black, and the white part of the letter appears whiter than when all parts of the letter are seen equally well: The eyes feel no strain when regarding a small letter for a short time or continuously at twenty feet, or when regarding one letter of diamond type at twelve inches, six inches, or a less distance, from the eye. Squinting, or partly closing the eyelids, or regarding a letter through a small opening, always lowers the vision of central fixation.
Objective: Simultaneous retinoscopy, or the examination of the eye with the retinoscope at the same time that the eye is regarding a distant or near letter, indicates always that the eye is accurately adjusted or accommodated for the point regarded by central fixation. In other words, when the point fixed is at infinity, no error of refraction is manifest and the eye is emmetropic. When the point is at four inches, the refraction of the eye is corrected by a concave four inch spherical lens — minus 10 D.S. The ophthalmometer indicates no corneal astigmatism of the normal eye when regarding a distant or near letter by central fixation. The appearance of the normal eye when regarding a distant or near letter by central fixation, is usually expressive of rest or relaxation. The eye is open, quiet, with no nervous movements, and the pupil is moderately dilated. The muscles of the face are generally in repose, while other musc!es of the body appear also relaxed and at rest. The optic or visual axes are always parallel when a point at an infinite distance is regarded by each eye at the same time by central fixation. Muscular insufficiencies or heterophoria are always absent.
Eccentric fixation. By eccentric fixation is meant the ability of the eye partially or completely to suppress the vision of the centre of the fovea and to see best with other parts of the retina. When a person with normal vision regards one small letter of the Snellen card at twenty feet, or regards one letter of diamond type at six, ten, twenty inches, etc., by eccentric fixation; the following phenomena become manifest.
Subjective: The person notes that the vision for letters or words is always less distinct than with central fixation, not only for the letters or words regarded, but also for those seen better in other parts of the field. One part of a letter fixed or regarded is less distinct than other parts of the same letter not fixed or regarded. Black letters appear less black than by central fixation; white letters on a black background appear less white; letters of different colors have a lighter shade of color. The edges of the letters are not clean cut and have a fuzzy or shadowy margin. The size of letters is altered; they appear larger or smaller than with normal vision. Their shape is distorted: a square letter may seem to be round. The curved lines may appear more like straight lines or straight lines as if somewhat curved. Illusions of sight occur; in some cases dark spots or irregular shapes are seen on a a white background. Polyopia is frequent; sometimes it is binocular, but usually it is monocular. With both eyes or with one eye covered a person with normal eyes when regarding one letter at twenty feet or six inches or at any distance by eccentric fixation; may describe the location of two, three, or four images, all of which are less distinct than the one image of the same letter seen by central fixation.
Pain, fatigue, tension, or discomfort of some kind is usually felt in the eyes during: eccentric fixation. The discomfort may become manifest only after the eyes are closed. Headaches are frequently produced by eccentric fixation when regarding a distant letter or a letter at the reading distance.
An important symptom is twitching of the muscles of the eyelids or of the eyeballs. It is always present when a letter is regarded by eccentric fixation either at twenty feet, six inches, or any distance from the eyes. Usually it is an unconscious manifestation of eccentric fixation. The twitching becomes evident when one lightly touches the closed eyelids of one eye while the other eye is regarding a letter by eccentric fixation; a fluttering or intermittent movement of the eyelids or of the eyeball is then felt. Squinting or partly closing the eyelids or regarding a distant or near letter through a pin- hole opening to a card, always improves the vision of eccentric fixation.
Objective: When a small letter of the Snellen test card at twenty feet is regarded by eccentric fixation, simultaneous retinoscopy always indicates myopic refraction in one or all meridians. When a small letter of diamond type is regarded at twenty inches or less by eccentric fixation, simultaneous retinoscopy always indicates hypermetropic refraction in one or all meridians. The ophthalmometer usually indicates corneal astigmatism during the time the normal eye regards a distant or near letter by eccentric fixation. The ophthalmoscope reveals an important symptom of eccentric fixation: the eyeball always moves at irregular intervals from side to side, vertically or in other directions. The appearance of the normal eye when regarding a distant or near letter by eccentric fixation is usually expressive of effort or strain. Twitching of the muscles of the eyelids can usually be observed and may be more evident immediately after the eyelids are closed. Often the movements of the eyeball become so extensive as to be manifest by ordinary inspection; in some cases they are sufficiently marked to resemble nystagmus.
The optic axes in eccentric fixation are never parallel; convergent, divergent, or vertical squint is noted. Lesser degrees of lack of balance of the eye muscles, muscular insufficiencies, are always present.
Eccentric fixation produces redness of the ocular conjunctiva and margins of the lids. Wrinkles of the forehead and dark circles under the eyes appear. The eyes may water.
The optimum. Vhen a person with myopia, hypermetropia, or astigmatism, regards a certain letter or object under favorable conditions, simultaneous retinoscopy reveals little or no error of refraction. The letter or object so regarded may be called the optimum. The favorable conditions include proper or sufficient illumination and quiet. The optimum may be a telegraph wire, a distant light, a crack in the floor, a small area of blue, green, or dark blank wall paper, a large or small white card, a hole about one half inch in diameter in a Snellen or other large card, the vertical or horizontal edge of the face or back of the Snellen card, a blank spot about one half inch in diameter on a blank white card, a certain number, which is most frequently the number 7, one letter of the alphabet, or the face of a well known relative or friend. Usually, but not always, a small letter of the Snellen card, as the first or last letter of the tenth line regarded at five, ten, or twenty feet, is an optimum. An optimum for one eye may not be an optimum for the other eye or for both when regarding it at the same time. Furthermore,, an optimum is seldom continuous — while regarding it on one day may lessen or correct the refraction this fact may not be true on succeeding days. It may be lost and later regained. The number of optimums discovered in each person is variable. It. is well to know that the distance of the optimum from the patient is important, since an object which is an optimum at twenty feet may not be one at ten or thirty feet. Looking at an optimum is usually restful, but the patient may not be conscious of any relief. The vision may become normal for the object regarded, but generally, although no error of refraction is manifest by simultaneous retinoscopy, the vision is not normal. The following three cases illustrate these facts:
A man with myopia of 2 D.S. who had vision of 20/70 was able to see clearly the letter K on the fifteenth line } and the letter K only on the fortieth line. When he regarded the letter K on the fifteenth line, by simultaneous retinoscopy he was not myopic, but when he regarded other letters on the same card he was myopic.
A woman, aged sixty years, with myopia of 18 D.S., was not myopic when she regarded a letter O on the tenth line at ten feet.
A child, aged four years, when he regarded the face of a stranger at ten feet, was myopic by simultaneous retinoscopy, .but when he regarded the face of his mother, simultaneous retinoscopy indicated no myopia.
As a general rule it is best for the patient to discard glasses. In some cases of extreme myopia, where going without glasses entails too great a hardship, good results have been obtained by gradually reducing the strength of the glasses worn as the vision improves, but the treatment is then prolonged. The patient is told that all cases of uncomplicated myopia, hypermetropia, and astigmatism are caused by eccentric fixation and that central fixation is necessary for a cure. He is told the meaning of the terms used; and the symptoms of eccentric fixation manifest in his own case are demonstrated. Not only at the beginning of treatment, but also at frequent intervals, by constant repetition, by frequent demonstration, and by all means possible, the fact is impressed upon him again and again that perfect sight or a cure can be obtained only by relaxation or no strain whatever, which in turn can be obtained only by central fixation. Nothing else matters. The idea that the treatment demands effort is eliminated as much as possible. The fact is repeatedly emphasized that the exercises of the eyes are not work or effort, but rather that everything recommended is to secure physiological rest of the` eyes, a condition which is found only with central fixation and perfect vision. Young children respond more promptly to the benefits of eye training than adults; not because their trouble may be more recent, which is not always true, but rather because they usually do as they are told and do not lose time by useless experiments suggested by their own inclinations or by other persons.
Before central fixation and normal vision can be obtained, it is necessary to stop the twitching of the evelids and the movements of the eyeball that result from the strain of eccentric fixation. One method which succeeds in a small proportion of cases is to hake the patient conscious of the movements. After regarding the Snellen test card with one or both eyes for a part of a minute, the eyes are closed, and when the closed eyelids are lightly touched by the patient with his fingers, he may frequently feel the movements. In some cases the strain, tension, or twitching is evident to the patient without touching the closed eyelids, or it may become apparent to him while the eyes are open when trying to read the Snellen card. Another method to stop the twitching and one which usually succeeds is to have the patient close the eyes and then press on the sides of the base of the nose as high as the inner canthus and also a little above it, with the forefingers of each hand, avoiding pressure on the eyeballs. The pressure may need to be applied continuously for some minutes or for a longer period. The value of the method should be emphasized. After it was repeatedly employed some well marked cases of nystagmus were observed to disappear for a longer or shorter time. Twitching of the eyelids and movements of the eyeball are always corrected by central fixation when regarding a distant letter at twenty feet or a small letter at twenty inches or nearer. It is well to bear in mind constantly that twitching of the muscles of the eyelids and movements of the eye- ball always prevent central fixation for both near and far distances. In the beginning the use of the Sncllen test card should be discontinued at frequent intervals in order that time may be given to stop the twitching.
The following procedures are recommended for obtaining central fixation: The patient is told to look at a light at twenty feet or greater distance, then to look a foot or further to one side of the light until it appears less bright. By practice and by increasing or lessening the distance of the point fixed to one side, the patient may soon become convinced that the light is seen best by looking straight at it.
After central fixation. is obtained for the light, the patient practises with the aid of the Snellen test card. The patient regards the top of a letter of the Snellen test card, a letter which is just barely distinguished or seen with some difficulty. If the bottom of the letter does not appear more indistinct than the top, the eye is not regarding the top of the letter by central fixation. The eyes are then to follow a pointer upward from the top of the letter until the bottom becomes more indistinct. This is repeated many times. After some practice, the patient will note that with the pointer a shorter dis- tance above the top of the letter the bottom of the letter appears less distinct. Continued practice usually improves the ability to fixate so that the patient gradually becomes able, by looking directly at the top of a letter, to see it blacker or more distinct than other parts of the letter which are not fixed. The patient notes that after he becomes able to see the top better than the bottom, the whole letter is more distinct than in the beginning, when all parts appeared of the same shade of black. At first the letter may be seen by central fixation only occasionally. Later he may see it more frequently, until finally he becomes able to see a spot in the top of a letter better than the bottom of the same letter, and continuously. When one part of a letter is seen better than all other parts, the eyes are at rest, and most persons at once become conscious of the relief to the eyes after central fixation, and maximum vision is obtained. It is easier to obtain central fixation by regarding small rather than large letters and the patient should practise with the small letters on the tenth line at more than ten feet from his eyes.
It is usually difficult to obtain central fixation at a near point, e.g., less than twenty inches, than at a distant point, such as twenty feet. A dot of about the size of a pica type period on a blank card is regarded at twelve inches and its clearness is noted with both eyes. The dot is then regarded with each eye separately. It is then held nearer and further off until the distance is found where it appears clearest with both eyes or with each eye separately. The patient, by practising in this way with the dot on the blank card, soon becomes able to see it quite clearly nearer and further than at the beginning. The patient is then given diamond type, Jaeger No. 1, to read. He is recommended to gaze at a period at a distance he can see it best with both eyes or each eye separately, and is told that when he sees it by central fixation the period will appear blacker than any part of a near letter and the part of the nearest letter closest to the period will appear as the blackest part of that or any other letter. The distance may be lessened to three inches and increased to twenty inches or more from the eyes by daily practice extending over many weeks or months. The ability to see one part of a small letter improves the vision for reading and affords a rest to the eyes. By alternately regarding diamond type by central fixation at the reading distance and the Snellen test card at twenty feet in the same way, the vision for near and far distance is improved. This method is usually successful in curing myopia, hypermetropia,,and astigmatism.
Relapses usually occur unless the training of the eyes is continued daily for months or years after normal vision is obtained. It is necessary even for the normal eye to practise normal vision frequently, consciously or unconsciously, or some error of re- fraction is usually acquired. The normal eye always acquires myopic refraction when trying to see un- familiar distant objects; while an effort to see near always produces hypermetropic refraction (Fig. 2). The liability of a patient to relapse should be em- phasized or his disappointment is probable. The following cases illustrate the value of the treatment:
Compound hypermetropic astigmatism-. A woman, aged thirty-seven years, had vision of 2o/ioo, with convex 3.5o D. S. and convex 2 D. C. go*; in each eye her vision was 2o/3o. She had worn glasses twenty years for the relief of defective vision, eye pain, headaches. and fatigue when reading. Her symptoms were not entirely relieved by her correction. After two months’ treatment by edu- cation in central fixation for distance and near, her vision improved to 20/15 in each eye without glasses. She read Jaeger No. t at four inches and twenty inches. The. sub= ~ective symptoms of headache, eye pain, and asthenopia disappeared. I believe that she will need to continue the eye training daily for a number of years to prevent .a relapse.
Myopia, squint, and amblyopia: Man, aged twenty-four years, right vision I8/2oo, with concave 2.5oD. S. a8/Ia, left vision t8/ioo; glasses caused no improvement; wilt both eyes open; the left eye turned in, which is an unusual condition; convergent squint, the fixing or straight eye being myopic with less vision. while the amblyopic. emme- tropiceye converged, although the vision was better.. The use of atropine sulphate one per cent., instilled three times a day for a week did not alter the refraction or improve the squint or vision. Eye training by the methods sug- gested above was followed by relief m one month; when the vision became normal in both eyes, without.gtasses and the eyes became straight with binocular single vision. The patient was advised to continue the use of the Snellen card daily for some years to prevent a relapse.
Presbyopia. Since the lens is not a factor in the production of accommodation, the theory that presbyopia is caused by a hardening of the lens is not true. In patients over fifty years old with normal eyes, hypermetropic or other errors of refraction are curable. The cure of presbyopia is accomplished by eye training which secures central fixation. The patients are taught to regard the letters of the Snellen test card, the smaller letters first at ten or twenty feet, in such a way that they see a small part of each letter blacker or more distinct than the rest of the letter. After normal vision is obtained for distance, the eye training is continued for small letters at the reading distance. A period or comma is selected. The patient regards a letter near the period or looks further away until he can appreciate that the period is less black or worse. He then regards a letter nearer the period. The distance from the period is shortened, until by practice the patient can make the period appear less black by regarding a point but a very short distance away, the diameter of a small letter. He can now read the print. Then he is encouraged to practise holding the fine print closer to his eyes until he can read at four :inches Jaeger No. i. Some patients are relieved in a few days. Permanent relief is never obtained, without constant or daily practice, reading diamond type without glasses at four inches to twenty inches. Patients sixty, seventy, and eighty years of age have obtained relief in a short time. The efficiency of the eye is very much increased, and one reads more rapidly than with glasses and without pain or fatigue.
The prognosis in acute cases where glasses have never been worn or in cases not relieved of every discomfort by, the aid of glasses, is favorable, and a cure is usually obtained in a reasonable length of time, such as a few weeks or months. In one case convex a D.S. and concave 5 D.C., 180°; in each eye under atropine, the patient obtained normal vision for distance by training of the eyes, and simultaneous retinoscopy revealed then no error of refraction. It was an interesting fact to me that in this case the eyes became normal, although atropine was instilled in the conjunctival sac three times daily. How could the hypermetropia disappear under atropine? The animal experiments answer this question satisfactorily to me, for it was learned from them that atropine, when injected deeply into the orbit, prevents the production of hypermetropic and myopic refraction by electrical stimulation.
Other cases could be cited. In general, all errors of refraction are benefited promptly. When the optimum is found, the problem is to teach the patient to make all objects an optimum. Until this has been accomplished no case has ever been permanently cured.
Animal experiments demonstrate:
- The lens is not a factor in the production of accommodation;
- Hypermetropic refraction is always produced by a strain of two or more of the recti by electrical stimulation or advancement, and is always prevented by relaxation of these muscles by tenotomy;
- Myopic refraction is always produced by a strain of two obliques and is always prevented by relaxation of these muscles by tenotomy;
- Atropine prevents, when injected deep into the orbit, the experimental production of errors of refraction;
- The cause of all errors of refraction is a strain to see. The cure is accomplished by relaxation. Relaxation is secured by central fixation.
The subjective symptoms of central fixation include the ability to see one part of a letter or other object better than the rest of it; maximum vision is thus obtained and the eyes feel at rest. The objective symptoms indicate no error of refraction by simultaneous retinoscopy and no corneal astigmatism by the use of the ophthalmometer, while the optic axes are parallel, with no squint or muscular insufficiencies (heterophoria).
The subjective symptoms of eccentric fixation include the ability to see letters or parts of letters better outside the point regarded; the vision is always defective; monocular polyopla 1s frequent; and pain and fatigue are usually felt. The objective symptoms always indicate an error of refraction by simultaneous retinoscopy, usually some corneal astigtllatism by the use of the ophthalmometer; the optic axes are seldom parallel, squint heterophoria, or muscular insufficiencies being present.
The refraction of newborn children is not always permanent. All errors of refraction are produced by muscular action and ate usually acquired.
Observations of the lensless human eye indicate that the absence of the lens does not prevent the production of errors of refraction by a strain of the extrinsic muscles.
The optimum is a letter or some other object which can be regarded with a minimum of strain, and when looking at such an object the patient has no error of refraction by simultaneous retinoscopy.
In treatment, discard glasses as soon as possible. Educate the patient in the fundamentals. To stop twitching of the eyelids by pressure on the sides of the base of the nose is important. Central fixation is obtained by eye training with the aid of the Snellen test card at twenty feet and by alternately practising central fixation with a dot or a fine point at twenty inches or nearer.
The results are good. After central fixation is obtained, all errors of refraction are cured.
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W.H. Bates, M.D.
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There is so much in this paper of Bates that could not be dealt with in a short post so may I comment of just one or two of its aspects. Bates’s animal experiments might not be to everyone’s taste today, particularly those who keep pets. In his defence I would say that his motives were compassionate and in the service of humanity. Back a century ago when these experiments were done they were apparently good enough to convince medical orthodoxy to publish Bates’s paper on the subject. These experiments have been questioned over the years, even by Bates Method followers such an Jonathan Barnes who in his book referred to Bates’s “not so convincing experiments” on animals or words to that effect. I understand that modern equipment, obviously unavailable to Bates, has made possible the examination of the eyes in great detail and has conclusively proven that the lens does indeed increase during the act of accommodation, something which Bates would have denied. But does this matter? I think not. Modern ophthalmology has very little interest in the mental side of seeing, and to mention Barnes again, he says they treat the eyes as if they are totally independent of the brain (and hence the mind). Which of course is not true. Possibly this could be the reason why Bates did these experiments, ophthalmologists had (and have) such a mechanical approach to vision that Bates maybe thought such an approach was required to speak their language, as it were. Also that is how he was trained himself. It should be noted that there have been cases where people who have had their lenses removed could see to read which does not fit accepted theories. These cases are explained away or ignored (for example called ‘insignificant’ by Philip Pollack in his anti-Bates article). So I think that Bates must have been at least partly right about this. What I personally like best about the article is the short descriptions of Bates Method Fundamentals (like central fixation, relief of strain and more) and with or without the animal research this paper can read like an abridged version of Bates’s book which this paper appeared to be a forerunner.
Some years back when I initially read Bates’s book I tried to make notes about these kinds of experiments and make sense of what possibilities could be true as far as the ways the eyes adjust and what it means. I was left feeling unsure about some things. I see he expands on them further in this article but I haven’t read it closely. I’m more interested in the power of the mind to affect change, which already happens constantly, but scientific types oddly insist on looking at things as mechanisms out of human control. It’s a very helpless way of viewing the world, I think, and it leads to people getting lost in complex nonsense.