Myopia Suddenly Clears
March 23, 2009 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I have very myopic eyesight. Something like 20/400 plus astigmatism in both eyes. I've worn glasses almost fifty years, since I was seven years old. A few years ago, an odd thing happened.

My wife & I worked on different schedules. She would awake, get dressed, & head out for the day while I slept in a few hours longer. I would usually wake up & visit a bit before she left.

One morning, I woke as she was dressing to find that although my glasses were on the side table where they had spent the night as usual, my vision was perfect. Looking through my unaided eyes, my whole field of vision was sharp & clear, bright, unblurred, maybe even better than with lenses.

It lasted as long as it took to realize it was happening, then slid back to my normal foggy state. I've never experienced anything like it before or since.

So. I could have been half asleep still, & imagined or dreamt the whole thing, but that's boring. An explanation that at least sort of matches the physical world is maybe I had an extraordinarily relaxing sleep that night, allowing the small muscles all around the eyeballs to relax extremely well, thereby allowing my eyeballs to temporarily reshape themselves better... maybe?

Well, I don't know. Has anyone else experienced this, or heard of it? Is there an opthamologist in the house?
posted by Forrest Greene to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds similar to orthokeratology, where lenses you wear at night and take out in the morning reshape your cornea enough for you to get through 8-12 hours with better vision. I am not a doctor or ophthalmologist, obviously, and I have no idea what could have caused such a thing accidentally. Internal pressure changes? Sleeping on your hands? If it happens again I would probably ask an ophthalmologist. When it comes to your eyes, generally change is bad.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had that happen if I have tears in my eyes just right. Like the shape of the tears coinicidentally matched my prescription for a moment. Could your eyes have been a bit moist?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:26 AM on March 23, 2009

If it is something bad happening, my father and I should be worried because we've both experienced it. Our theory was that our eyes were flattening in our sleep somehow, but a couple blinks caused them to go back to their normal state. I noticed it most when I would wake up and be able to read the alarm clock before putting my glasses on.
posted by MaritaCov at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2009

"It lasted as long as it took to realize it was happening, then slid back to my normal foggy state."

That sounds exactly like something that would happen in a dream.
posted by 3FLryan at 11:44 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've read a few of the books about naturally seeing clearer through exercises, massage and relaxing. Each of them mentioned something similiar to this, the only paper I could find at the time speculated that moisture on top of the eye acted as a lens, changing your vision for a second, which I don't really buy.
posted by zentrification at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2009

I've had the opposite happen--my vision is quite bad (nearsighted) but I'll wake up with even worse vision than normal after sleeping with my hand pressed up against my eye or something similar. Conversely, I can sometimes push/pull the area around my eye and make my vision "better," which I've used from time to time, usually when I've dropped my glasses and don't want to step on them.
posted by miratime at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2009

Seconding zentrification's point that most alternative vision therapy pundits use these kind of episodes (I've had similar but never perfect vision) as evidence that our, myopic, eyes are physically capable of seeing perfectly without corrective lenses or glasses.

While I don't know how realistic it is to expect to be able to get great vision with exercises, I wouldn't ascribe your experience to a dream, I think it's a fairly common thing.
posted by gwpcasey at 12:42 PM on March 23, 2009

Sounds a little dreamlike, but my brother experienced a similar odd experience when we were kids. Briefly, my Mother experimented with some odd new-age health stuff back in the seventies (specifically stemming from the writings of Edgar Cayce) but some of that included exercises and diet intended to help with ailments rather than using drugs or doctors. Anyhoo, one of those practices was these kind of weird neck stretching-strengthening exercises. I've worn glasses since I was six - so has my mother. My brother was looking to get them at around 10 years of age and then he did one round of those neck exercises and, I kid you not, he said his vision cleared immediately. He had perfect vision for the next 20 years. He does need glasses now, but nothing like the coke-bottle prescription I need. Never worked for me, dammit.
posted by elendil71 at 1:04 PM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty short sighted and I've experienced that too. I put it down to slightly squished eyes from sleep.

I can get a similar effect by putting my fingers at the outside corner of my eyes and pulling backwards so that my eyelids stretch over my eyes a bit.
posted by lucidium at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2009

BTW, Forrest Greene, it sounds like you may be too myopic for LK/Lasik. If so, check into ICL. Expensive, but it's changed my life - and I was nearsighted enough to nickname you "Old Eagle Eyes."

Since you're also in New England (somewhere), memail me if you'd like a recommendation. No business connections; just a satisfied, now-20/30 client.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:40 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

lucidium, mrs. bythelake says the effect you mention is likely due to the fact that, when you reduce the light entering your eye, your pupils are being made smaller, thus changing how your eye focuses. You can achieve the same thing by looking through something the size of a pinhole: just ball up your fist and peer through. (This is the reason people squint to see things more clearly.) As for the OP, no advice: bring it up with your friendly neighbourhood optometrist next time you're in.
posted by roombythelake at 3:04 PM on March 23, 2009

20/400 isn't actually a prescription, what's the number perscription in your eyes? I'm curious to know what range you're in.

I ask because clear vision doesn't seem dream like to me at all, but it might depend on just how nearsighted you are.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:34 PM on March 23, 2009

I has worse than 20/400 (6.25 of myopia and 1.75 astigmatism, if that makes any sense?) and my LASIK worked just fine. Best money I ever spent.
posted by artychoke at 4:52 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

This used to happen to me alot. The first time after a particularly enlightening experience. This lasted for the better part of a day. For many years I would wake to clear or nearly clear vision only to have it degrade during the day. Put on my glasses and it was gone. I was wearing hard contacts that were a little too flat for my eyes (I am myopic). I was also reading and doing the relaxing exercises found in Better Eyesight Without Glasses.
posted by pointilist at 7:41 PM on March 23, 2009

Seconding tears. Extra fluid on the eye surface when you awoke. Capillary attraction to the eyelids made the fluid into a concave lens, like your glasses. But as soon as the extra fluid drained away, your vision returned to what it was. Test this out by putting some eyedrops in and see if it makes a difference. Try it with half-closed eyes, as if just waking up, which brings the eyelids closer together.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:35 PM on March 23, 2009

Ahhh okay, if 20/400 is less that -6.25 (presuming artychoke forgot the -? Myopia is always -, isn't it?) then I think it's probably a combination of things; liquids can do it a bit, but so can relaxed, half-closed eyes (which, of course, is why squinting works). These things can subtly and temporarily can alter your vision, particularly with moderate myopia like yours.

It's funny: everyone I've ever met with moderate myopia classifies themselves as having terrible eyesight.

I don't get temporary clear vision, but I do get temporarily altered vision, but it's minor and mild. Barely enough to notice. But my scrip is -14.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:52 PM on March 23, 2009

roombythelake, I was aware of that effect. Like pinhole glasses, right? So I was making an effort to make sure my eyelids weren't actually reducing the aperture I was looking through, just compressing my eyeballs in a certain direction.

I didn't describe it very well, but it was supposed to be some anecdotal evidence that squishing your eyes might adjust their focus.
posted by lucidium at 11:52 AM on March 24, 2009

Yes Hildegarde, I did not put the minus, and notice that I also "has" a prescription. I was not trying to speak lolcat. I think -6.25 is worse than 20/400 - my doctor always said I wasn't on that scale. (There was no big E, no dark parts at all on the eye chart thingy. I think the big E is 20/200.) But -14! Dang! You win/lose. Here is an answer regarding what 20/whatever sort of equals in diopters. By this scale, I calculate that -14 is 20/a bazillion. (Or maybe 20/1800.) And my eyes would have been around 20/800 or so.

I was just commenting on IAmBroom saying the OPs eyes might be too bad for LASIK. Sorry for derailing the thread. Anyway, with LASIK, you can have clear vision all the time! (IANALS - I am not a LASIK Salesperson.)
posted by artychoke at 8:29 PM on March 24, 2009

artychoke, gotcha.

Having a -10 to -12 prescription, 20/400 is what I would call "moderate myopia" (per Hildegarde, above), but JIC, I was pointing out that even if it was too severe for LASIK, there was still a permanent remedy.

posted by IAmBroom at 9:39 PM on March 27, 2009

I don't remember when it's from, but there was a thread here where I think someone had stepped out of the shower and had found his or her normally bad eyesight to have suddenly and temporarily improved. Most felt it was water on the eye, like some here speculate. Can't seem to find the thread though.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:49 PM on March 28, 2009

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