27 April 2018

The spectacle experiment: Why spectacles are likely to be bad for the eyes

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. I'm not a doctor. These are my personal experiences. To get medical advice, consult a doctor.

I have fatigue-induced eye strain and I learnt that on mentioning this to an ophthalmologist or optometrist, if the first thing they recommend is to change my spectacle lenses to aspherical or to use anti-reflective coatings or recommend anything else about lenses, then the best thing to do was to make some excuse and walk out of that place because I know I'm interacting with someone who doesn't know squat about eye strain. It didn't necessarily mean they were money-minded or trying to trick me. It just means they have believed whatever was told to them, without verifying it. So I just continue my search for a more knowledgeable doctor.
The first question they should have asked is: "Are you getting enough sleep?" or "Are you giving your eyes enough of rest" and/or "Are you getting proper nutrition?".

During my years of experimentation, I discovered that my eyes used to get strained quicker when I wore spectacles. Ophthalmologists, in their ignorance, prescribed me lenses for astigmatism, they said I might have dry eyes and prescribed lenses of various powers and anti-reflective coatings which were all later proven to be wrong conclusions and didn't help me at all. On the contrary, it just made my eye strain worse.

You wouldn't notice because...
Do note that you wouldn't notice what I did, because your eye strain didn't reach a chronic level. Mine did, and I was able to notice even the slight differences which everyone goes through, but they don't notice it because their eye muscles recover from it at least partially after a night's sleep. But in cases of partial recovery (ie: if you are getting less than 8 hours sleep), the strain builds up and manifests as headaches, burning feeling in the front of the eyeballs, sharp stabbing pains behind the eyeballs and at the sides of the eye balls, muscles all around the eye feeling sore and at the most chronic stages, even your cheek muscles and muscles near the eyebrows feel strained and sore. Don't ever let that happen to you.

So next I tried high-refractive-index ordinary glass lenses with no extra coatings, and found that it caused much lesser strain. I assumed this was because of the greater visual acuity provided by glass as compared to plastic, so I tried extremely expensive plastic lenses from three world-class brands which were marketed as being extremely clear. Although I did notice that the lenses were high quality and did seem clearer than other brands, they immediately caused strain and were absolutely nowhere close to the kind of clarity and acuity that an ordinary glass lens provided.

A little experiment you can try
The blue things in the image below, are spectacle lenses viewed from the top, and this is about trying to read some words with the right eye. The left eye is closed or covered with one hand. You'll notice that when the lens is perpendicular to the words, you can see it clearly. But if you turn your head even slightly (you don't even have to turn it as much as shown in the image) and try to read the word, the word gets either blurred or distorted a bit. With some plastic lenses it's a blur. With some, it's a slight distortion. With glass lenses, it's almost negligible.
This blurring/distortion doesn't happen when not wearing spectacles.

Something the industry does not seem to have considered is that our vision from both eyes is not always parallel. 

I am 100% sure of the difference between glass and plastic/polycarbonate lenses because I've got repeatable results during a three year period of checking. Scientists would of course call this a subjective result (and I agree), so I hope there would be someone who could verify it objectively. Sadly, the industry doesn't seem to have developed methods to measure extraocular muscle strain.

Keeping your eyes fixed in one direction tires your muscles. That's a given. But I have a strong belief (this needs to be impartially and objectively verified) that the distortion created by spectacle lenses are the other major unexplored cause for eye strain and headaches. I don't know if wearing contact lenses would help (didn't try them because of the risk, and lasik doesn't work out for certain people), but my opinion is that at least when working at a computer, it helps to wear spectacles with a glass lens instead of plastic or polycarbonate lenses (it has to be on a frame that gives the same focal point position in front of your eye as the earlier spectacles, to avoid strain from eye accommodation). Keeping a diary/spreadsheet helps record how much uninterrupted sleep one has got everyday vs how bad the eye strain was when wearing spectacles with glass lenses vs plastic/polycarbonate lenses. After not wearing spectacles and getting deep sleep, many nights, for two months, my eyesight actually improved.

Plastic lenses obviously have a safety benefit, but for me that's a lot less important than being able to avoid the horrible eye strain. For just sitting in front of the computer, I don't see any safety problems when using glass lenses.

This person Ben, also speaks of why glass lenses are better than plastic or polycarbonate.

More info that could help the eyes:

Remember: The focus should be on getting sufficient sleep, periodic rest and proper nutrition, rather than on lenses or surgery.