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Eye exercises for astigmatism

man holding thumb out focusing on astigmatism eye exercises

Everyone wants to see clearly — including people with astigmatism.

Some have proposed eye exercises can rid your eyes of astigmatism so you can see clearly without eyeglasses or contact lenses.

But do these “astigmatism eye exercises” really work?

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is an often misunderstood condition. It is not an eye health problem. Astigmatism is simply a refractive error, like nearsightedness and farsightedness.

Refractive errors are imperfections of the shape of the cornea and/or lens of the eye that prevent light from forming clear images on the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eyeball.

Typically, astigmatism is due to the cornea having unequal curves in different meridians of the eye. In simple terms, this causes the cornea to be shaped more like an American football than a soccer ball.

Uncorrected astigmatism causes blurred or distorted images of objects at all distances, eyestrain and headaches. Astigmatism usually is easily corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or vision correction surgery.

SEE RELATED: Understanding astigmatism: Answers to common astigmatism questions

What are eye exercises for astigmatism?

Everyone would prefer to see clearly without a need for glasses or contact lenses. So it’s no surprise many people would love a magic cure for astigmatism and other refractive errors.

And there’s no shortage of places on the internet where someone will offer that false hope. Sites that offer eye exercises for astigmatism so you can “see clearly naturally” and “throw away your glasses” are an example of this.

These so-called astigmatism eye exercises typically are visual activities and eye movements designed to exercise or relax your “eye muscles.”

Examples might include:

  • Closing your eyes and then moving them from side to side while concentrating on your closed eyes and your breathing.

  • Extending one arm with the thumb on that hand pointing up, then slowly following your thumb with your eyes as you make circular motions with your arm.

  • Taking a break from your screen and letting your eyes rest by looking at an object in the distance for a short period of time while fully blinking your eyes.

While such activities might be a welcome break from staring at your computer screen or phone for hours at a time (the last example might help relieve digital eye strain and discomfort from dry eyes), these eye exercises have absolutely no effect on reducing astigmatism.

Astigmatism has nothing to do with your eye muscles — it’s a refractive error caused by the shape of your cornea (or sometimes the lens inside your eye). Eye exercises to stimulate or relax the muscles that control eye movements have no effect on the shape of your cornea.

Also, there’s no research that shows that eye exercises that relax the focusing muscle (ciliary muscle) inside the eye that surrounds the lens has any effect to reduce or cure astigmatism.

See your eye doctor

The best way to see as clearly and comfortably is to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for regular comprehensive eye exams.

Don’t waste time and money on ineffective eye exercises for astigmatism. If you have astigmatism, your eye doctor will prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to fully correct your vision.

If you are over age 18 and your glasses prescription has been stable for at least a year, LASIK or other refractive surgery is an option to correct astigmatism without glasses or contacts.

Read next: Astigmatism treatment

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