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Magnifying On The Question Of Reading Glasses

by Martin A Sussman(more info)

listed in vision and eye sight, originally published in issue 112 - June 2005

It doesn't matter what side of the Atlantic you're on these days, or even what side of the table in a restaurant either: You can always find someone struggling to read the menu, as if playing the trombone, moving the menu out a little farther, then in a little closer, constantly adjusting and re-adjusting it, trying to find the right distance where it comes into focus.

It's a telltale sign of middle-age sight – the decline in the ability to focus clearly close-up that affects nearly everyone as they age. For most people, the symptoms of middle-age vision develop slowly: at first, noticing difficulty focusing when the light is dim, or when looking for a number in the telephone directory or trying to thread a needle.

On the other hand, if you have been wearing glasses for distance vision, they are no longer useful for reading – you might have to lift them off your face to be able to see at near.

Left untreated, the condition worsens for nearly everyone. The first pair of reading glasses (or bifocals) is followed by stronger and stronger prescriptions. Initially, glasses are needed only some of the time to see small print. Eventually, they're needed all the time to read or see anything close-up.

Reduced near vision in middle-age is known medically as presbyopia, from the Greek meaning 'old eyes' or 'ageing eyes'. Most eye professionals (optometrists and ophthalmologists) consider presbyopia an inevitable consequence of ageing. The On-line Medical Dictionary (OMD) defines presbyopia as 'a defect of vision consequent upon advancing age'.

Presbyopia generally starts to become evident in the early 40s, and forces millions of people to start wearing glasses for reading. Of the UK's 60 million people, 23 million fall between the ages of 40 and 75 suffering from some degree of presbyopia. Around 96% of the UK population aged 55 and over wear glasses.[1]

Despite the prevalence of presbyopia, medical science cannot agree on its exact cause. Currently, there are two main theories to explain the condition. The first is that the lens of the eye stiffens with age, making it less flexible to focus for clear near vision. (In the normal eye, the lens of the eye is constantly changing its shape to bring objects at varying distances into focus. To focus on an object close up the lens bulges, becoming fatter from front to back and thereby changing the focal length. To focus on a more distant object, the lens flattens, becoming thinner.)

The second theory claims that the flexibility of the muscles that surround the lens decreases with age, and as these muscles become less flexible, they are unable to change the shape of the lens needed for near vision.

Whatever the exact cause, there is now a method to reverse visual time.

Birth of an Idea

As a creator and developer of natural alternatives for vision care over the last 30 years – and founder of the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision in 1976 – I am in close contact with many other professionals in the field, including Dr Ray Gottlieb OD, PhD, FCOVD, the creator of The Read Without Glasses Method.

Nearly 25 years ago, Dr Gottlieb, who had been on the clinical faculty at the University of California-Berkeley Optometry School and a professor of optometry at the University of Houston College of Optometry, was in private practice in Rochester, New York, when he was asked by a 52 year-old patient if there was a way to avoid reading glasses.

Dr Gottlieb agreed to think about it. He wondered if losing near vision was inevitable. Could it be prevented, or even reversed?

After considerable study, research, and thought, Dr. Gottlieb revisited the convergence/accommodation mechanism.[2]

In order to see close-up, we have to first turn – or converge – both eyes inward so that they aim at what we want to see.

Flexible, younger eyes adjust and readjust naturally to focus near and far. The process is called accommodation. So how easily we can converge our eyes is directly related to how clearly we can accommodate.

But it's even more than that, Dr Gottlieb explains: "Turning our eyes inward actually stimulates the eyes' ability to focus clearly close-up".

It has been known for over 100 years that converging the eyes stimulates near focusing.[3] What was never examined before – until Dr Gottlieb's research – was whether this visual mechanism could successfully be applied to presbyopia. He found it can.

The Read Without Glasses Method – In Six Minutes A Day

As soon as Dr Gottlieb told me about his work with patients with presbyopia, we began exchanging ideas.

The result was a collaboration that produced The Read Without Glasses Method, a natural eye training system for home use on DVD and video, which, through a series of structured exercises, offers a range of remedies – somewhere between delaying the onset of presbyopia to reversing it, or stopping it altogether.

The Read Without Glasses Method combines vision therapy principles with exercises and relaxation techniques into a step-by-step system that can be used by nearly anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Secret of the Chart

Dr Gottlieb created a special kind of eye chart – not one to measure clarity of vision – but one designed to utilize the convergence/accommodation relationship. He gave this new chart to the 52 year-old patient and taught him a set of easy exercises to practise at home.

Two weeks later, the patient returned with amazing results: practising just a few minutes daily, his near vision had improved from 6/60 to 6/12, and he could see clearly again without his reading glasses.

Dr Gottlieb began to give his new chart to other patients challenged by ageing eyes and, more often than not, he saw the same kind of improvement.

For example, another patient, a 75 year-old optometrist who had been wearing +2.50 Dioptres for reading for years, practised the exercises for four months and was then able to read the tiny print on the chart without any glasses.

The Convergence/Accommodation Mechanism

A fundamental principle of the visual system is the relationship between accommodation and convergence.

What Dr Gottlieb examined was whether the accommodation of presbyopic eyes could be stimulated by convergence, through the convergence / accommodation mechanism*.[4] He found that, along with an increase in accommodation, that the accuracy, strength and flexibility of convergence also improved.[5]

Over the next three decades, Dr. Gottlieb worked successfully with the principles and techniques he'd developed with people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

Dr Gottlieb's specially designed chart stimulates the eyes to converge at a distance of approximately 20cm while focusing at approximately 40cm. This extra 20cm of convergence stimulates enough additional accommodation to allow the eyes of presbyopes to see small print at 40cm. With practice, most people taught to converge twice as close as the normal reading distance report that blurred text becomes much clearer, sometimes crystal clear.

Clinical evidence gathered by Dr Gottlieb indicates that a large percentage of people over 40 continue to have clear near vision after using The Read Without Glasses Method, even if they have been diagnosed with presbyopia, and even after they've been using weak, medium or strong reading glasses for years. The results last.

Can one expect to stop needing reading glasses and bifocals and function effectively without them? Dr Gottlieb's clinical experience suggests that within a few weeks or months, many people eliminate the need for reading glasses. And those who continue doing the exercises on a regular basis can successfully continue to avoid needing a reading prescription. Some people, even after 10 or more years, still do not need glasses or contacts for clear and comfortable near vision.

Still, The Read Without Glasses Method is not for everyone. It requires two functioning eyes, so it is not for the small percentage of people who have only one functioning eye, lazy eye, squint, or severe low vision.

Ageing may be an inevitable part of life, but we've all seen a 50 year-old move around like he's 70 and a 70 year-old moving with the flexibility and ease of a 50-year-old. Whether it's through Pilates, yoga, aerobics, walking or jogging, for example, we know that exercise and relaxation can restore flexibility and tone in the body. The Read Without Glasses Method shows how to stimulate the eyes' ability to do the same.

The method is simple to learn and can be practised in less than six minutes a day. It includes two of Dr Gottlieb's special charts: one for home use and a handy wallet-size version to carry around. Some people need to use the method a few weeks before they start seeing their near vision improving. For others, the results come more quickly.

During her first time with The Read Without Glasses Method, professional business coach Susan Bagyura, owner of BlueDanube Business Coaching in London, noticed she could start reading smaller print without her glasses. "The changes were immediate," she said.

"Look, I was so frustrated that I needed glasses. I had to have two pairs or else look like an old lady with them hanging around my neck. I couldn't wear contact lenses because I have very dry eyes. But after doing the exercises in The Read Without Glasses Method, I could read the ingredients on cans in the grocery store, I could read maps without fishing around for glasses, I could quickly and easily thread a needle again.

"The greatest value to me was getting back my freedom," she said. "The freedom to see, do and read whatever I need to whenever I need to."

* …it is not uncommon to observe the patient using their strong convergence accommodation to resolve small print type at near-point levels between 9-15 cm. Once the image is captured, their convergence-accommodation is released to a more comfortable posture of 30-40 cm. This action appears to be contrary to the usual push-up method and has been referred to as the push-down method. Through the combination of the voluntary forces of accommodation and strength of the convergence mechanism, it appears that the patients are re-establishing the synkinesis of the two systems." Presbyopia and Amplitude of Accommodation. Larry Lothringer MD.


1. Eyecare Facts and Figures. The Eyecare Trust. 2004.
2. Kapoula Z, Bernotas M and Haslwanter T. Experimental Brain Research. 126: 175-186.1999.
3. Mueller J. Elements of Physiology. Vol. II. Taylor and Walton. London. 1842.
4. Howarth PA. Empirical Studies of Accommodation, Convergence and HMD.
5. Mawas LJ, Diraison C, Fox A and Thiollet L. Presbyopia and Convergence or Presbyopia of Convergence.

Further Information

To see if The Read Without Glasses Method can work for you, go to: and take the quick test.

The Read Without Glasses Method is available in video and DVD formats: you can obtain them at The video costs £14.99 and the DVD £19.99. Postal purchases by cheque may be made from: Lumina, PO Box 31645, London W11 2UZ. Please add £3.95 p&p. Lumina may be contacted via Tel: 020 7221 0621;


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About Martin A Sussman

Martin A Sussman is President, Cambridge Institute for Better Vision, Topsfield, Massachusetts, USA which he founded in 1976 to bring people natural approaches to vision care. He worked to transform Dr. Gottlieb's basic exercises into The Read Without Glasses Method. Mr. Sussman is also author of The Program for Better Vision, co-author of the 1993 Station Hill book, Total Health at the Computer (with Dr Ernest Loewenstein), and audio author of Your First Step to Better Vision and the Advanced Better Vision Tape Set. Martin may be contacted via

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