Syntonic optometry

Syntonic optometry
Syntonic optometry

Syntonic optometry uses colored light shone into a patient’s eyes to treat visual and other dysfunctions.

The founding father of syntonic optometry is Dr. Harry Riley Spitler, who developed the discipline during the 1920s and 1930s. Building on the work of earlier investigators including Edwin Babbit, Spitler studied the effects of light on human health and performance. Illness, he concluded, is largely caused by imbalances in the body’s endocrine and nervous systems.

Balance could be restored and healing achieved, he decided, by exposing the eyes to visible frequencies of light. Spitler founded the College of Syntonic Optometry in 1933, and eight years later he wrote a book titled The Syntonic Principle.


Practitioners of syntonic optometry claim to be able to treat or support treatment of asthenopia (eye fatigue), strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (unclear vision), ametropia (defective refraction of light), problems with focusing or converging the eyes, and visual field constrictions related to brain trauma, visual/emotional stress, or degenerative eye disorders. They also claim to be able to help correct visual attention deficit, and learning and behavior problems related to vision.


In syntonic optometry, the patient is exposed to one or more colors of light for a fixed period of time. This is done in a darkened room, with colors generated by a machine known as a syntonizer. In a typical session, a patient might absorb one color for 10 minutes, then another for an additional 10 minutes.

Alternatively, just one color might be absorbed for 20 minutes. Treatment typically could involve between three and five sessions a week, for a period of four to eight weeks. In most cases, syntonics is used in conjunction with other therapeutic procedures.

Visible spectrum
Visible spectrum


The usefulness of syntonic optometry is a contentious issue, and a medical opinion should be sought in all cases of serious illness. The application of syntonic optometry to treating behavioral and learning disorders is especially controversial.

Because the aftereffects of these problems can affect a child for a lifetime, it is prudent to obtain a second opinion from a university-affiliated practitioner.

Side effects

Conducted properly, syntonic optometry is thought to be generally free of adverse side effects, although it is expensive.

Research and general acceptance

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, an association of medical eye specialists, states that “as with other forms of vision therapy, there is no scientifically verified evidence to support claims for syntonic optometry.”

The College of Syntonic Optometry acknowledges that “researchers and other professionals are still a step away from understanding the clinical methods and practice of light stimulation which syntonists have used with positive results for over a half a century.” There is, however, growing acceptance in medical circles of the therapeutic effects of light, especially its usefulness in treating seasonal affective disorder.