We recently stumbled upon an Internet advertisement that both concerned and confused us. It claims vision therapy doesn’t work. We take issue with the claim, so let the debunking begin. (This is part 1 of a two-part series responding to an ad claiming “Vision therapy doesn’t work.”)
The ad appears (sometimes) at the top of the page when you Google “vision therapy.” It states, “Vision therapy won’t help” and “Vision therapy has not been proven...don’t pay before you read this.” It leads you to an article from the Children’s Eye Foundation. The article states that vision therapy is an “unproven treatment” that won’t help to fix most vision problems. Oddly, there are no references listed to verify these strong statements.
We found the article not only riddled with misinformation, but also making some generally confusing statements. If we as vision experts were confused, we’re assuming someone who isn’t an expert would be too.
To provide some clarity, we’re going to dissect this advertisement point by point to explain that optometric vision therapy does work, and has plenty of research to back it. Because we have so much to say, we’re going to break our response into two posts. This post will respond to the article’s initial section on the “three main categories of vision therapy,” while next week’s post will dive into the rest of the article.
In Response to “There are three main categories of vision therapy”
Their article explains that vision therapy is comprised of three main categories. While we wouldn’t necessarily agree with this right off the bat (it’s tough to define vision therapy by three categories), we’ll concede for the moment and just focus on the three they mention.
For each point, we’ll write their opinion in blue text, followed by our response in black. Let’s dive in.
1. Orthoptic vision therapy – Eye exercises to improve binocular function. Orthoptic eye exercises are used by pediatric ophthalmologists and orthoptists, while optometrists call it orthoptic vision therapy. When pediatric ophthalmologists and orthoptists prescribe orthoptic eye exercises the exercises are taught in the office and carried out at home.
* We were pleasantly surprised and also confused to see the article say orthoptic eye exercises can be beneficial in treating convergence insufficiency, a vision problem where the eyes can’t converge on the same point in space. This was surprising considering the ad is based around the idea that vision therapy doesn’t work.
Based on this study, we would agree that there’s strong evidence backing up the legitimacy of vision therapy as a treatment for convergence insufficiency.
It is important to note that the study concluded, “Office-based vergence/accommodative therapy with home reinforcement was significantly more effective...in improving both the symptoms and clinical signs associated with symptomatic CI.” In this study, the group who had eye exercises taught in the office and carried out at home showed much greater improvement in their symptoms and findings.
It’s also important to realize that vision therapy is helpful in treating a number of other vision problems. Take a look at these other studies that show the effectiveness of vision therapy for numerous vision problems.
2. Behavioral/perceptual vision therapy – Eye exercises to improve visual processing and visual perception.
Does behavioral vision therapy work? Behavioral vision therapy is considered to be scientifically unproven.
* It appears that they are separating binocular function from “perceptual” visual functions with these categories. However, vision therapy and visual perception aren’t mutually exclusive. When conducting optometric vision therapy, we are, by default, improving a person’s visual processing and perception when we work on functional aspects of vision. These aspects include eye movements, focusing and eye teaming. In our opinion, it is impossible to work on one without the other being impacted.
Some people would consider activities to develop visual perceptual skills such as directionality (related to space perception and letter reversals) and visual memory to be more purely visual perception, but these can be severely interfered with by poor visual functioning. When these do not improve after working on physical visual skills like focusing and eye teaming, then we do have specific optometric vision therapy activities to develop these skills.
Want more than just our expert opinion? Take a look at these extensive studies on vision therapy’s ability to improve visual processing and perception.
3. Vision therapy for prevention or correction of myopia (nearsightedness).
Does vision therapy for the prevention or correction of myopia work? There is no evidence that vision therapy delays the progression or leads to correction of myopia.
* This was another point that confused us. In our practice, we’ve rarely claimed prevention or correction of myopia to be a goal of treatment, much less a ‘main category’ of vision therapy.
That being said, we have seen patients’ myopia improve as a result of vision therapy.
Given the nature of the internet, it’s no surprise there is a lot of misinformation about the merits of vision therapy. We hope our responses to this article help you separate fact from fiction. Subscribe to this blog, and get our post next week as we break down the rest of this advertisement.