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The ‘Eyes’ Have it – or do they?

Loretta Marron BSc
From a Skeptics Perspective

Issue 75: September 2008
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I opened an iridology report mailed to me by a Brisbane naturopath.
My problems barely fitted onto two crammed pages.
At fault was every major body system, including my circulatory, nervous, lymphatic and adrenal systems.
My liver, pancreas, kidneys and stomach all had problems.
I had eye weakness and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), a suspected bowel infection, chronic digestive disturbance, a hormonal imbalance, damaged cells, as well as a toxic liver and kidneys” (1).  
Can looking into your eyes really tell you what ailments you had in the past, what you have now and what can happen in the future?  
As my local pharmacy offers “free 15 minutes consults”, for this article I’d like to talk about iridology.

Iridology is the study of the iris to diagnose disease, personality, and mutual compatibilities and for revealing ones future.  
They believe that each point on the iris corresponds to an organ and irregularities found on those points indicate problems with the corresponding organ.  
Iridologists claim that they can do both a mental and physical medical diagnosis by looking at the coloured part of your eyes. 

Back in the 18th century, so the story goes, a Hungarian physician by the name of Ignatz von Peczely noticed a dark streak in the eye of a patient with a broken leg.
This reminded him of a similar streak in the eye of an owl he had once owned which had a similar ailment (which incidentally he caused). 
He then started to work back from the ailments of his patients noticing the marks on their eyes and drawing up a chart. 
Each eye was divided up like a clock face and soon the known body organs were marked around the diagram – head and brain were seen in the top of the iris and the stomach toward the centre. 
The bottom of the chart includes pelvic and abdomen organs. 
Patient’s eyes were studied and meticulously compared with these charts for their diagnosis. Other iridologists have continued to build on Peczely’s chart.

By the reasoning of Iridology, it seems that mammograms may not be necessary after all, if what I have read from the Iridology web sites is true. 
From the Internet I’ve found an iridology eye chart developed by Bernard Jensen D.C. Ph.D. There are several different versions of the chart, but the one most widely used was developed over 70 years ago and features 50 parts of the body.  
I keep looking for the part that should indicate breast cancer, but it doesn’t seem to be there.  In fact, the position on the eye chart that might represent breasts are not marked anywhere that I can see – since the Iridologists were undoubtedly male this seems rather unusual. 

The iris is the coloured part of the eye, a small muscle that controls the aperture of the eye, monitoring the light that hits the retina. 
As far as eye physiology is concerned, my research shows that there are only four occasions when the iris colours and patterns change. 
Many babies are born with blue eyes.
For some, however, a few days later, as they continue to develop pigmentation, the eyes may change colour. 
As we grow older just as the body gets freckles so can our eyes and as we get older we may develop a white ring that surrounds each iris.
The only other occasions our iris may change is from eye drops such as those used for Glaucoma.

According to Prof Edzard Ernst, “alternative diagnostic techniques are dangerous as they are likely to generate false diagnoses” (2).  
Five clinical trials have been undertaken in Holland, Australia and America using hundreds of patients with known medical conditions, using photos of the same eye taken a few minutes apart and of eyes taken when patients were healthy and later when they were ill.  All trials have failed - not even close it seems. 

What really concerns me is that people may be using an iridologist instead of going to their GP to diagnose serious conditions. 
They may even be avoiding mammograms or blood tests because their iridologist misdiagnoses them or has identified conditions that they claim can be fixed by unproven herbal remedies.  
Seeing iridology offered in my local pharmacy especially upsets those of us with serious health conditions. 
Understandably, as we are often at the script counter for our medications, we expect pharmacies to provide only evidence-based medicine and therapies. 

The NSW Pharmacy Board, in response to a complaint against a pharmacy advertising iridology, recently stated, “iridology is not recognised as part of the practice of pharmacy” and they notified the pharmacist that he was to “cease promoting iridology as a pharmacy service”. 

Australians trust pharmacists above most other professions (3), so is the pharmacy the right place for any ‘Alternative’ diagnoses? 

  • The Truth About Natural Therapists   Reporter Helen Chryssides.  Reader’s Digest July 2000 http://www.ziggy.com.au/naturopaths.htm
  • Ernst E, Pittler MH. Wider B. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An evidence based approach. 2nd Ed. Elsevier Mosby. 2006
  • Australia’s Most Trusted Professions. Readers Digest.  http://www.readersdigest.com.au/content/australia-most-trusted-professions-2008


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