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Tuesday / August 16.
HomemifeatureIridology: Fact or Fiction

Iridology: Fact or Fiction

Iridology is considered a disproved alternative health practice by eyecare professionals, however as iridologists use the eye as a ‘health screening tool’, we examine the foundations of the practice and examination methods.

Internet reference tool, Wikipedia, defines iridology as “an alternative medicine technique whose proponents believe that patterns, colours, and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient’s systematic health. Practitioners match their observations to iris charts which divide the iris into zones corresponding to specific parts of the human body. Iridologists see the eyes as ‘windows’ into the body’s state of health. “Iridologists use the charts to distinguish between healthy systems and organs in the body and those which are overactive, inflamed, or distressed. Iridologists believe this information may be used to demonstrate a patient’s susceptibility towards certain illnesses, to reflect past medical problems, or to predict later consequences of health problems which may be developing.

“As it is not a method of treatment, but a diagnostic tool, its practitioners often study other branches of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy.

“Iridology is not supported by any published studies and is considered pseudoscience to most medical practitioners.”1

“There are several studies examining iridology from different perspectives. The following studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals.”

However, when asked what the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) position was on iridology, Dr. Maurice Rickard, Manager the Public Health Policy for the AMA simply replied: “I’m afraid the AMA doesn’t have a position on iridology.

” He then referred mivision to RANZCO, which would have the evidence-based clinical understanding we might be seeking.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) does not recognise iridology as a science or diagnostic tool. A spokesman simply replied: “RANZCO’s position on iridology is that it has no basis in science and is a disproved alternative health care practice.

” That attitude does seem to be the general consensus of most medical and eye health professionals. When asked for its official line on iridology, the Optometrists Association of Australia (OAA) also said: “it had no policy on that”.

Skeptic

Sydney GP, Dr. Richard Gordon, is one of the mainstream medicos who remain sceptical. In fact, as past President of Skeptics NSW, Dr. Gordon has often commented and written on iridology and other forms of alternative medicine.

This is what he has to say:

“The theory is that – either by a process of creative design or evolutionary process, depending on a person’s religious beliefs – the human body is equipped with a metering device to gauge a person’s health. This device is the iris.

“Proponents claim that through the neuro-optic reflex – the neural connection of the iris with the cervical ganglion of the sympathetic nervous system – impressions are conveyed from all over the body to the iris, revealing pathological, structural and functional disturbances in the body.

“So, what is the evidence for iridology?

“First, the proposed mechanism:

“The neuro-optic reflex is neither anatomical nor physiological, there being problems with the claimed representation of sides of the body and the ipsilateral iris, and the claims that the optic nerve is the final link in the feedback loop.

“The fact is that, except where damaged by trauma or surgery, the structure of the iris remains constant throughout life. This constancy of structure can be used like fingerprints for identification and has been suggested as a replacement for personal identification numbers.

“Second, the evidence:

“There are several studies examining iridology from different perspectives. The following studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

“In 1981, at the University of Melbourne, researchers compared iridology evaluations with known medical histories. Iridologists compared before-and-after iris photographs of subjects who developed an acute disease, and were asked to determine changes in the iris and to identify the organ affected.

“The iridologists only found changes in a set of photographs of the same subject taken two minutes apart as a control.

“The researchers concluded that “at least for the subjects of the prospective trial and for the acute stage of the disease states represented, there were no detectable iris changes of the type depicted in the commonly used iris diagnosis charts”.

“In 1979, at the University of California, U.S., researchers asked iridologists to compare iris photographs of 143 subjects (48 with renal disease) with creatinine levels for the detection of kidney dysfunction. The photographs were examined by three iridologists and three ophthalmologists. The overall hit rate for all six was no better than chance.

“One of the iridologists who participated in the study correctly identified 88 per cent of the subjects with renal impairment. He also reported that 88 per cent of the normal controls were similarly afflicted.

“Another study participant disputed the validity of serum creatinine as a test of renal function compared with iridology. He said iridology had been around for more than 125 years and creatinine testing was only recent. However, the age of a test does not add to its validity.

“In Complementary Therapies in Medicine – an international, peer-reviewed journal – a 1996 study by Buchanan examined the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, asthma, coronary artery disease and psoriasis. The study concluded that ‘the diagnosis of these diseases cannot be aided by an iridological style analysis’.

“In 1985, in the Nordic ophthalmological journal Acta Ophthalmologica, Berggren concluded that: “Good care of patients is inconsistent with deceptive methods and iridology should be regarded as medical fraud.”2

Other Studies

There have been numerous other studies, such as the one in 1998, conducted by Eugene Emery, a science writer for the Providence Journal,l who tested the ability of two iridologists to assess his health and to match slides he had prepared of the eyes of eight people who had been medically diagnosed. Both iridologists scored very poorly.

In 2000, Dr. Edzard Ernst issued a thorough review of published reports up to that time. Noting that none of the ‘positive’ studies had been properly designed, he concluded:

“Might iridology be doing any harm? Waste of money and time are two obvious undesired effects. The possibility of false-positive diagnoses, i.e. diagnosing – and subsequently treating – conditions that did not exist in the first place, seems more serious.

“The real problem, however, might be false-negative diagnoses: someone may feel unwell, go to an iridologist, and be given a clean bill of health. Subsequently, this person could be found to have a serious disease. In such cases, valuable time for early treatment (and indeed lives) can be lost through the use of iridology.”3

History of Iridology

The idea that the eyes are a mirror to the body is an ancient one: The Greek physician, Hippocrates, was known to examine patients’ eyes for signs of illness. It wasn’t until 1670, however, that the first actual medical reference to iridology as a diagnostic tool appeared in German physician, Phillipus Meyens’ book, ‘Chiromatica Medica’.

The science and practice of iridology is not new. The oldest records uncovered thus far, have shown that a form of iris interpretation was used in ancient China as far back as 1,000 BC, nearly 3,000 years ago. In the Bible, Luke writes that Christ said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.”

In the year 1670, the physician Philippus Meyens, in his book, ‘Physiognomia Medica’, described the organ division of the iris according to body regions. The Viennese ophthalmologist, Georg Joseph Beer, did not know of these old views on iris analysis. Yet, in his publication in 1813, ‘Textbook of Eye Diseases’ he wrote: “Everything that affects the organism of an individual cannot remain without effect on the eye and vice versa.” The first published iris analysis can be credited to the physician, Philippus Meyens, who, in 1670, wrote a book explaining the features of the iris called ‘Chromatica Medica’. In his book, Meyens states that the eye contained valuable information about the body.

The Father of Iridology

The founder of modern Iridology was Dr. Ignatz Von Peczley, a Hungarian physician known as ‘The Father of Iridology’. In 1881 he published a book: ‘Discoveries in the Field of Natural Science and Medicine, a guide to the study and diagnosis from the eye.’ It was in this book that Von Peczely built up the first accurate chart of the iris. It has been reported when he was a child he attempted to release a trapped owl when it broke its leg. He observed a dark mark in the owl’s iris, which gradually turned white as the leg healed.

Peczely published several iridology books but was limited in his observations of the iris because of the quality of the optical equipment. In 1950 an American, Dr. Bernard Jensen pioneered the science of iridology in the U.S. He developed one of the most comprehensive iris charts showing the location of the organs as they reflect in the iris of the eye. His charts are still used today.

Iridology: A Personal Story

Toni Miller is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of iridology. She has been practicing for the past 30 years, has written text books on the subject, run lectures worldwide and around the country, and today, heads up the College of IRIS (Iridology Research and Integrated Subjects) on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia.

Among her many pupils have been doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists and other health care professionals. She has also been invited to speak to the undergraduate class at the school of Optometry at the University of NSW.

Toni is not dogmatic about iridology or what it can and cannot do.

“Iridology is not a diagnostic tool and legally we are not allowed to diagnose. It’s not our arena,” she readily admits. “We are not prime care therapists. We might refer to a doctor or a naturopath. A doctor treats sick people and a naturopath tries to maintain wellness. Iridology is a health screening tool and a very effective one.”

Toni explains that a properly trained iridologist can tell from the structure of your eye, for example, if you have a predisposition to blood sugar disorders.

Iridology Explained

Explaining iridology in simplistic terms, Toni says: “There are three basic perimeters. The two major ones are the structural pattern of the eye tissue that makes up the actual iris and the second is the colour that we see in the eye. There are two sets of colour. There’s the colour that you’re born with…the primary colour…some people have blue eyes or brown or green…but there are also little freckle appearances that we get on the irises and they have a different meaning again. Fewer than five percent of children don’t have that second type of pigment, and more than 60 per cent of adults over 60 have them. This suggests that we accumulate pigment with age, the same way we do with the skin as we age.

“It tells us, depending on the colour of those particular pigments … it will indicate that one of your primary organs is struggling. For instance, all brown variations of pigment are from the liver, yellow is from the kidneys. Left and right irises are similar, but not the same. The right iris refers to the right side of your body in 80 per cent of cases. There is a cross over.”

Examinations

Toni says that some iridologists use a slit lamp to examine the eyes, but she doesn’t. She looks at people’s eyes with a magnifying unit for a personal, overall assessment and then photographs the eyes with a special piece of equipment. She readily agrees that prior to digital imaging film was unreliable because the colour varied according to the brand of film, the quality of paper and lab printing it.

Asked if there might have been false evaluations as a result of her own evolution and change in thinking, as well as that of other iridologists, Toni answers: “absolutely! I would have definitely told a patient that there may have been a disposition for a problem with a certain organ which was not correct then because my thinking and teachings were wrong then, but on a scale of things, about 10 per cent of cases would have mattered because colour is not the only thing we look at. We also look at the structure of the iris as well. It’s made up of hundreds of thousands of little fibres and that’s were the primary information comes from.”

Asked how a patient can tell a shonky iridologist, Toni says the best way is to ensure they have the appropriate certificate and by referral or word of mouth.

References

  1. Iridology. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridology
  2. Seeing through iridology. Skeptics by Dr. Richard Gordon. 23 Oct 2003. http://www.australiandoctor.com. au/news/76/0c018676.asp
  3. Ernst E. Iridology: Not useful and potentially harmful. Archives of Ophthalmology 118:120-121, 2000.

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