Physical Eye Fitness

By staff July 1, 2003

Though most people over 50 do need reading glasses, optometrist Dr. Gary Bockhold of Center for Sight says this exercise can postpone the inevitable.

Focus on a small letter, bringing it toward your nose until it begins to blur. Stop there and cross your eyes for two to three seconds. Repeat twice. Perform twice daily.

Many people also swear by the methods of Dr. William Bates, whose book, The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses, remains in print 60 years after it was first published. Here are two of his exercises:

Palming, to rest and relax the eye. Cup the eyes gently with the palms of your hands for 10 minutes and try to imagine complete blackness. Repeat two to three times daily.

Swinging, to keep the eye muscles mobile. Focus on two objects. Look from one object to the next, moving the head and eyes at the same time. Repeat 50 times, blinking each time. (Blinking irrigates the eyes and delivers precious nutrients.)

When all else fails, though, Sarasota doctors are participating in exciting new surgical techniques to treat presbyopia. Dr. David Shoemaker of Center for Sight is investigating an implantable intraocular contact lens that can induce monovision. The implant is several years into human clinical trials, and one model has already been approved for use in Europe.

Meanwhile, Sarasota optometrist Dr. Harry Grabow is participating in clinical trials for a new multi-focal eye implant that moves in both eyes and mimics natural focus. This implant, which should be available to the public within the next two years, has an 80-percent success rate, but also one drawback: It is designed in concentric circles that accommodate different distance levels. The spaces where those three zones meet can create circles around lights at night, impairing night vision.

Down south, Dr. James E. Croley of Cataract and refractive Institute of Florida in Fort Myers is offering conductive keratoplasty (CK), a recently approved procedure that was designed to correct farsightedness, but is also being used for presbyopia. CK uses a hair-width probe to release radio frequency energy into the cornea of one eye to reshape it and induce monovision. Croley says 80 percent of those who've had it report improved vision three months afterward.

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