28 January 2019

Can £5 'pinhole' glasses really improve your vision?

Our Clinical Adviser comments on an article by the Daily Mail on pinhole glasses and whether they have any benefits.

You may have read the Daily Mail article on pinhole glasses and whether they really improve your vision (28 January 2019). This was the advice our Clinical Adviser, Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, had to offer:

“A lot of people dismiss pinhole glasses outright, but that’s not correct because they do focus light - however, that comes with a number of disadvantages. Pinhole glasses will bring into focus objects that are nearby or far away, so they can be used by those who are short-sighted, long-sighted or have presbyopia. But, this comes at a cost. Cutting the amount of light that enters the eye reduces the quality of the image, so while it may be sharp, it is also dim. Depth perception is lost, too, and colours can be murky - and peripheral vision is limited, which means pinhole glasses shouldn’t be worn when driving. Some users complain of headaches, which are probably caused by the strain of focusing in dim light. And, of course, pinhole glasses look rather peculiar.

“With regards a therapeutic benefit, there is no evidence that they have any effect on permanently improving your eyesight. If you use them for weeks or months, does your prescription decrease? Do you become less short-sighted? No. 
“Pinhole glasses are potentially dangerous when worn as sunglasses, as harmful UV light can still pass through the holes. If you try wearing pinhole glasses and you find that your vision improves, it is indicative that you may benefit from wearing prescription glasses, so definitely worth visiting your local optometrist and arranging a sight test. They will both establish whether prescription glasses could be helpful and check the health of your eyes. 

“For those who would like to learn more about the science and history of pinhole spectacles I would recommend the editorial in our academic journal Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics by Prof Charman. Separately if you’re in London, you should consider a visit to our Eye Museum where our historian can show you various pinhole glasses in our collection through the ages.” 

Related further reading

This article describes sleep and its regulation, and the specific contribution of the eye.

This paper describes how viruses infect, reproduce and damage cells. Knowing this process is critical for understanding how to treat ocular viral infections.

The use of evidence-based optometry Is encouraged, but research can be hard to decipher. We break down some commonly used terms.