Dr. William H. Bates was quite surprised to discover that his techniques to relax and reactivate the vision could also dissolve cataracts. This article from Dr. Bates’ Better Eyesight Magazine gives an overview of his unfolding discoveries about cataracts. It is interesting to consider emotional factors that could help create cataract conditions (Louise Hay suggests the emotional belief, “The Future Looks Dark”) – gm
CATARACT: ITS CAUSE AND CURE
By W. H. Bates, M. D.
Cataract is a condition in which the lens becomes opaque. It is commonly associated with advancing years, but may occur at any age. It may also be congenital (present at birth). The opacities take many different forms, and may occur in a hard or a soft lens. According to the orthodox teaching the condition is incurable except by the removal of the lens, although in the earlier stages it is sometimes ameliorated by means of drops that expand the pupil and by glasses. The text-books are full of statements to this effect.
Initial Presumption that Cataract Cannot be Cured
Yet it is perfectly well known that cataract does sometimes recover spontaneously. Many such cases are on record, and probably most ophthalmologists who have been practicing for any length of time have seen them. Fifteen or twenty years ago, when I was assistant surgeon at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, I collected, at the request of the surgeon, Dr Henry D. Noyes, a large number of records of such cases.
The removal of the lens, when it is soft, is usually accomplished by the operation of needling, whereby the tissues are broken up so that they may be absorbed. A hard lens is extracted through an opening at the margin of the cornea, and the best results are believed to be obtained when the opacity has become complete. Otherwise part of the lens substance is liable to be left behind and cause trouble. Thus the patient may be kept for years in a condition of semi-blindness.
The results of the operation are not always as satisfactory as might be desired. A considerable proportion of patients regain what is considered to be normal acuteness of vision with very strong glasses, and the results are considered good when they become able to read large print at the near-point and 20/50 at the distance. The patient is obliged, usually to have two sets of glasses, one for distant vision to replace the focusing power of the lost lens, and the other for reading to compensate for the impairment of the accommodative power which usually follows the operation.
This impairment of accommodative power is not due to the removal of the lens, which has nothing to do with accommodation [this earlier view of Dr. Bates has been disproven with modern instruments], but to the fact that the patient strains so to see that the muscles that control the shape of the eyeball fail to act properly. In some cases it is regained, after the patient becomes accustomed to the new situation, without treatment. And in rare cases patients have become able to do without glasses entirely, because the eyeball elongated sufficiently to compensate for the loss of the lens.
Help from Diet and Exercise
I began to treat cataract by the operative method, because I did not know anything better to do. Then I learned from Dr James E. Kelly of New York that incipient cases would yield to hygienic treatment [diet and exercise].
Dr. Bates’ Surprise at his Method Causing an Early Cataract to Disappear
My first inkling of the value of central fixation [from the Bates Method, getting a patient to continuously shift their vision to distinct new places] in such conditions came to me through a patient who had incipient cataract in one eye and hypermetropia [farsightedness] in the other. By the time the error of refraction had been relieved the cataract had disappeared.
After this I had many similar experiences, but it did not occur to me that a ripe cataract, or a congenital cataract, could by cured by this or any other treatment.
More Surprises – Cures of Congenital and More Advanced Cataracts
In 1912, however, a young girl of seventeen came to my clinic with the left eye enucleated and a congenital cataract in the right. The left had been operated upon for the same condition, and, having become infected, was taken out to save the better eye. The latter having recently become worse, the patient had come to have it operated upon. Before performing the operation I thought it best to treat her by the method of relaxation, for the purpose of improving the condition of the eye as much as possible so that the operation might have a better chance of success. To my surprise the vision improved and kept on improving, until in three months it was normal and the cataract had disappeared.
One day, some half a dozen years later, a lady, fifty-five years of age, came to me to be cured of presbyopia (middle age need for reading glasses). Her distant vision in the right eye was 20/20, and in the left she had only light perception. This was due to the presence, in this eye, of a mature cataract. I began to treat her by the aid of the memory and imagination for presbyopia, and, in order to prove to her the relation between these mental faculties and the state of the vision, I asked her to cover her right eye and note that she could not remember or imagine a black period as well as when it was open. She replied that she could, and I said it was impossible. She insisted that, nevertheless, she did it.
Thinking that at the near-point she would realize the imperfection of the sight of the left eye more clearly than at the distance, I brought the card closer and said: “You cannot remember the period looking at this card with your good eye covered.”
She replied: “I can, and what is more, I can read the card,” which she did, both at two feet and at twenty.
This was naturally a shock to me. It did not seem to me possible that a mature cataract could melt away in such a short time, but the ophthalmoscope confirmed the statements of the patient. When she remembered a period perfectly I could see the optic nerve and other details of the eye-ground. Since then I have cured a great many similar cases, one of the most remarkable having been reported in Better Eyesight for June, 1920.
[The referenced article tells of an 82 year old man who went from not being able to see his fingers with his left eye, to being able to read fine print in 4 months. The article notes, “The treatment prescribed was as follows: Palming six times a day, a half hour or longer at a time; reading the Snellen test card at five, ten, and twenty feet; reading fine print at six inches, five minutes at a time, especially soon after rising in the morning and just before retiring at night, and reading books and newspapers. Besides this, he was to subject his eyes, especially the left, to the sunlight whenever an opportunity offered, to drink twelve glasses of water a day, walk five miles a day, and later, when he was in better training, to run half a mile or so every day.” The results of this treatment have been most gratifying. Not only have his eyes improved steadily, but his general health has been so much benefited that at eighty-two he looks, acts and feels better and younger than he did at eighty-one.] Note: This is 3 hours per day of palming! But consider that palming is a deeply relaxing, often meditative practice.
Simple Relaxation Melts Traumatic Cataract
I had another shock when a few months ago a traumatic cataract began to melt away under the influence of relaxation treatment. The patient came to my clinic with an eye which had been completely blind for four years from traumatic cataract complicated with detachment of the retina. The opacity completely covered the pupil, and with the ophthalmoscope no red reflex (light reflected from the retina) could be seen. After a few treatments the patient became able to see the movements of his hand on the temporal side. Later he became able to see the hand in all parts of the field. Now he is beginning to read.
These cures are very remarkable. A traumatic cataract is one which follows an injury (trauma) to the lens, the opacity being due largely to the formation of connective tissue in the pupil. In advance of the event, I should have pronounced the cure of such a condition impossible, although I had previously demonstrated that when patients practice central fixation connective tissue is absorbed in the optic nerve, retina and cornea. In the retina and optic nerve the circulation can be seen to improve as the connective tissue disappears, and I can only assume that this is the cause of its disappearance.
Improvement of Diabetic Cataract
Equally remarkable is the cure of diabetic cataract without relief of the disease. A patient with such a cataract came to me on April 29, 1918, her vision being 10/200 — in the right eye and 20/30 — in the left. She had been seen a year and a half previously by a well-known ophthalmologist who had advised several operations, but, fortunately, she had not submitted to them. By the aid of palming, swinging, imagination and memory, her vision improved rapidly.
On May 15 that of the left eye was 20/70, while later it became normal. On May 22 the vision of the right became normal temporarily. Since then she has had slight relapses in the right eye, but few or none in the left. The general diabetic condition has not changed, and it is remarkable that when it is at its worst there is very little lowering of the vision.
It is quite evident from the foregoing facts that the cause of cataract (other than traumatic) is strain, and I have found much evidence, both clinical and experimental, to the same effect.
A Person Who Could Spontaneously Manifest and Release Cataract
I have not been able to produce cataract in a normal eye by strain, but in a cataractous eye I have seen the opacity come and go according as the mind of the patient was relaxed or under strain. In one of these cases the opacity was so dense that no red reflex could be seen. Another doctor who was present looked at the eye and made the same observation. I asked the patient to remember a swinging O perfectly black, with a perfectly white center. This meant perfect relaxation, and when she did it I saw some of the details of the retina and the optic nerve, while the other doctor again confirmed my observation. I then asked her to think of the O as stationary, with grey outlines and a clouded center. This meant great strain, and while she did it neither I nor my colleague could see the red reflex.
In experimental animals I have produced cataract by operating upon the external muscles in such a way as to increase their pressure, and have then relieved it by cutting these muscles.