The Eyes Have It: Diagnosing Physical Ailments Through Iridology

  • BY Lainie Petersen

When you stare into someone’s eyes, what do you see?

Hope? Fear? Love? Arthritis? Stress? Poor kidney function?
If the last three examples seem a little strange, don’t worry. You’re probably just unfamiliar with iridology, a diagnostic/preventative technique practiced by some advocates of holistic medicine.

Trained practitioners of the method claim that they can examine an individual’s irises (the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil) and identify potential health problems or weaknesses in the body’s systems.

(And I’ve been relying all these years on x-rays, blood pressure cuffs, and getting poked with lots and lots of needles.)
The Eye Bone is Connected to The Leg Bone

Iridology is based on the idea that organs of the body are intricately connected and that a problem in one organ can be identified or treated via another organ. This notion is not uncommon in holistic health practice: Reflexology, for example, is based on “mapping” the feet, with each area of the foot corresponding to another body system. Using his or her understanding of foot-mapping, a reflexologist may treat a client’s sinus problems by manipulating the fourth and pinkie toes of the client’s right foot.

The (disputed) legend behind the introduction of “clinical iridology” into the Western world is that a boy named Ignaz von Peczely, accidentally broke an owl’s leg while attempting to free him from a vine. Von Peczely noted that when the owl’s leg broke, a streak appeared in the owl’s iris. When von Peczely became an adult and started to practice medicine, he encountered a patient with a broken leg whose iris had the same streak in the same position, indicating a connection between the appearance of the iris and the condition of other parts of the body.

Eventually, other healthcare practitioners decided to run with the technique and develop their own spin on mapping the iris, offering health advice to clients who are willing to sit for a close-up and personal examination of their eyes.


What the Experts Say

Not surprisingly, many medical experts are quite skeptical of iridology as a diagnostic tool. In fact, mention iridology in a room full of medical doctors, particularly those with skeptical natures,  and you are likely to endure sustained howls of indignation.


The scientific literature, these killjoys claim, doesn’t support iridology as a valid diagnostic method. They also point out that the iris generally doesn’t change much as people age, unless it undergoes some kind of trauma. If the iris accurately reflects a person’s health, it would constantly change in response to chronic and acute health conditions.


(In other words, while an examination of the iris of your right eye can tell you something about the iris of your right eye, it won’t tell you anything about dysfunctions in your big toe, left shoulder or even your left eye.)


Finding an Iridologist

This is where it gets tricky, at least in the United States. See, state government officials typically take the practice of medicine rather seriously. So seriously, that if you plan to diagnose someone’s health problems, you need to earn a license in a recognized health care profession.


(While some iridologists claim to offer only an analysis of a person’s health, not a diagnosis of disease, the definitions of “analysis” vs. “diagnosis” can get mighty murky.)


Now it is true that some licensed medical doctors/osteopathic physicians, naturopaths and chiropractors do practice iridology, although the practice is more common among chiropractors and naturopaths, themselves practitioners of alternative healthcare modalities. Check out alternative medical clinics in your area to find out if iridology is among its offerings.


The other option is to work with an iridologist who doesn’t have any medical qualifications. As one writer notes, these practitioners often give advice to their clients that resembles that given by any health care professional (eating a balanced diet, keeping hydrated, and getting regular exercise). Following this advice is generally wise, though be cautious if they prescribe herbs or nutritional supplements on the basis of an iridology examination, as both can have an adverse effect on your health if used improperly.


One More Word of Warning

Eye problems are no laughing matter: If you do begin to see changes in your eyes, contact your doctor immediately.