So you need a bifocal??[/caption]

Back when I was a kid (my wife might say that was very recent), I investigated the various methods of improving my eyesight. Of course none of these involved the wearing of eyeglasses.

There are a number of systems that claim to improve your vision without the use of eye wear. They include the famous Bates Method, another system created by Aldous Huxley, yet another by Martin Sussman, and still others. These methods all use similar techniques, like palming, fixating and blinking to improve your vision enough to throw away your glasses –- or so they claim.

In my 20s, I tried two of these systems for about 6 months and decided I would have had better results spending my hard-earned cash on several pounds of expensive chocolate. That’s not to say these programs don’t work. They can, in fact, improve the vision of many people, but it depends on the problem.

Occasionally, patients ask me about using these techniques, hoping they can stop wearing glasses, especially bifocals. Bifocals are those little segments in the bottom of eyeglass lenses that allow you to focus up close for reading. There are some bifocals that are not visible to the observer called progressive lenses, of which there are more than 400 various brands and types.

In more than 30 years, I have never seen vision therapies prevent the need for bifocals. The reason we need them is because of a naturally occurring change in the eye called presbyopia, otherwise known as “old” (presby) “eye” (opia). This basically means the eye no longer focuses easily because of age-related changes.

When you are young, the lens in the eye is soft and supple –- flexible like that gelatin dessert we all grew up with. This allows us to quickly focus from far away to close up and back again. As we age, free radicals, ultraviolet light, genetics and, of course, our diets all conspire to make the lens in the eye more rigid and less flexible. Most people start to notice this around the age of 40.

The bifocal, or reading addition in the lens helps to make up for the loss of our focusing ability. Of course, if you are near-sighted, you already focus up close, but the ability to change your focus quickly still drops off after about 40 years of age.

So unfortunately those “better vision” programs are not very effective in preventing the age-old problem we humans encounter … old age.