Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Iridology - Fake? Quackery?



iris eyeIf you reside in the Philippines and watch television, you may have noticed the commercial ads for Iridology, specifically Osaka Iridology (represented by the Guardo brothers).

Osaka Iridology
has been providing health care services in the Philippines through eyology or iridology, the science of iris analysis, where the strengths and weaknesses of a person’s internal organs can be detected through its nerves and markings.

Eyology
is a general term encompassing various forms of iridology, such as physical iridology and personality iridology, and sclerology. These are all alternative medicine practices which claim that various qualities of a person (physical, mental, emotional, personality, etc.) can be diagnosed by the various markings in the irises and in the whites of the eyes.

Iridology
(also known as iridodiagnosis) is an alternative medicine technique whose proponents believe that patterns, colors, and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient's systemic health. Practitioners match their observations to iris charts which divide the iris into zones which they correspond to specific parts of the human body. Iridologists see the eyes as "windows" into the body's state of health.

Iridologists use the corresponding charts to highlight certain systems and organs in the body as healthy and others as overactive, inflamed, or distressed. Iridologists may use this information to demonstrate a patient's susceptibility towards certain illnesses, to reflect past medical problems, or to predict health problems which may be developing.

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

One potential benefit is that iridology is non-invasive; the only discomfort to be tolerated is light being shone in the eyes.

Iridologists are rarely physicians. Iridology can only be studied at private institutions, and it is not taught in conventional or naturopathic medical schools. The majority of medical doctors reject all the claims of all branches of iridology en bloc and label them as pseudoscience or even quackery, just as what happened to phrenology.

Phrenology
(from Greek: "mind"; "knowledge") is a theory which claims to be able to determine character, personality traits, and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head (reading "bumps").

Phrenology has long been considered a pseudoscience
. Since the late Victorian Era scientists have completed extensive research on the function of the brain. During the height of phrenology the phrenologists including Gall committed many fallacies in the name of science. In the book "The Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method" by Stephen S. Carey it is explained that pseudoscience can be defined as "fallacious applications of the scientific method." Through the advancement of modern medicine and neuroscience the scientific community has now come to the conclusion that feeling the outer skull is in no way a predictor of one's behaviors.

Despite the label of "quackery" made by medical doctors, iridology is legal in the Philippines and Osaka Iridology currently has 40 branches all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao with 50 certified iridologists and health consultants lending their health expertise.

Aside from iridology, Osaka’s health consultants were also trained on the science of sclera (white portion of the eye) analysis or sclerology by renowned US naturopathic expert Dr. Leonard Mehlmauer.

Sclerology
is a non-invasive alternative medicine practice in which the sclera is examined for information about a patient's systemic health.

According to advocates, examination of the sclera reveals a great number of disease processes and is capable of showing data that is more current (to within days), while iridology is better at showing genetic tendency. They claim sclerology requires no clinical tools and is an inexpensive, non-invasive method to enhance the evaluation of patients' health.

Similar to criticism which has been leveled at iridology and other alternative practices, skeptics point out that sclerology is founded in pseudoscience, claiming that there is no reason to assume that the condition of the sclera has any causal relation to a patient's condition in general. They also claim it is ineffective and may be harmful to patients if it delays the diagnosis and treatment of a true medical problem.

Despite the risk of misdiagnosis, Osaka Iridology, one of the leading health care alternatives in the Philippines, still remains quite popular among many Filipinos oblivious of the risk. In fact, Osaka Iridology teamed up with GMA-7 Network in 2005 in its pursuit to promote physical fitness in the city.

Osaka chief executive officer Jonathan Guardo signed the contract with GMA 7 Marketing and Productions Inc. president Manuel P. Quiogue in support of the network’s project to provide health assistance to the public.

Critics, including most practitioners of mainstream medicine, dismiss iridology, largely because published studies have indicated a lack of success for its claims. The proposed correlation between illness in the body and coinciding observable changes in the iris is unsupported by clinical data. In controlled experiments, practitioners of iridology have performed statistically no better than chance in determining the presence of a disease or condition solely through observation of the iris.

It has been pointed out that the premise of iridology is at odds with the notion that the iris does not undergo changes in an individual's life.
Iris texture is a phenotypical feature which develops during gestation and remains unchanged after birth. There is no evidence for changes in the iris pattern other than variations in pigmentation in the first year of life, eventual freckles and variations caused by glaucoma treatment. This stability of iris structures is at the foundation of iris recognition for identification purposes.

Well controlled scientific evaluation of iridology has shown entirely negative results
, with all rigorous double blinded tests failing to find any statistical significance to its claims.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Simon et al.,1979), three iridologists incorrectly identified kidney disease in photographs of irises and often disagreed with each other. The researchers concluded: "iridology was neither selective nor specific, and the likelihood of correct detection was statistically no better than chance."

Another study was published in the British Medical Journal (Knipschild, 1988). Paul Knipschild MD, of the University of Limburg in Maastricht, selected 39 patients who were due to have their gall bladder removed the following day, because of suspected gallstones. He also selected a group of people who did not have diseased gall bladders to act as a control. A group of 5 iridologists examined a series of slides of both groups irises. The iridologists were not able to identify correctly which patients had gall bladder problems and which had healthy gall bladders. For example one of iridologists diagnosed 49% of the patients with gall stones as having them and 51% as not having them. He diagnosed 51% of the control group as having gall bladder problems and 49% as not. Dr Knipschild concluded: "this study showed that iridology is not a useful diagnostic aid." Iridologists defended themselves with the same considerations as above, but also attacked the methodology of the study.

Ernst, 2000, said: "Does iridology work? [...] This search strategy resulted in 77 publications on the subject of iridology. [...] All of the uncontrolled studies and several of the unmasked experiments suggested that iridology was a valid diagnostic tool. Such investigations are wide open to bias. The discussion that follows refers to the 4 controlled, masked evaluations of the diagnostic validity of iridology. [...] In conclusion, few controlled studies with masked evaluation of diagnostic validity have been published. None have found any benefit from iridology. As iridology has the potential for causing personal and economic harm, patients and therapists should be discouraged from using it."

Although superficial symptoms can sometimes be a sign of an underlying problem, studies thus far have provided no such evidence in support for iridology. So, until then, it remains that not only is iridology nonsense, worthless, and a waste of money, but misdiagnoses can potentially worsen people's conditions and cause them to worry and waste money over nonextistent conditions or steer them away from necessary medical care when a real problem is overlooked.


Sources: Wikipedia, SunStar

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