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Do you know iridology real or fake?

What is Iridology?

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“The Iris, Sclera and Pupil of the eye show the veil the soul has created, through consciousness (or forgetfulness), that reflects the illusion which prepares the soul for attaining the reality of full enlightenment.”
~David J. Pesek, Ph.D., September 1988

An Introduction

Eyes have long been referred to as the “Windows of the Soul.” But few people are aware of just how true this observation is. Accurate analysis of iris structure and pigmentation provides information about you or your clients that is hard to find through other methods. This information is so valuable that Iridology deserves to become a widely practiced assessment tool in both the physical and psychological health fields. There are a multitude of factors that influence our health and personality, and many of these factors are reflected in the iris. Look closely at your eyes in a mirror, and then at the irises of those around you. You will see many different patterns of iris fibers and colors. Like fingerprints or faces, no two are exactly alike, and neither are we! The iris structure is so unique; it is now being used for security identification at ATM machines and airports. Microsoft’s house of the future will use an eye scanner to identify residents and unlock the door.

What is it?

Iridology is based on the scientific study of the iris — the colored part of the eye. Like markings on a m

Ignatz von Péczely, a 19th-century Hungarian physician is usually credited with inventing iridology. He got the idea for this novel diagnostic tool when he saw a dark streak in the eyes of a man he was treating for a broken leg and it reminded him of a similar dark streak in the eyes of an owl whose leg he had broken years earlier. Von Péczely then went on to document similarities in eye markings and illnesses in his patients. (According to Wikipedia, von Péczely’s nephew, August von Péczely, dismissed the story about the dark streaks as apocryphal. The Wikipedia article also notes: “Iridology is not supported by any published studies and is considered pseudoscience by most medical practitioners and eye care professionals.” Even if the story is apocryphal, I like it because it illustrates the magical thinking of practitioners and patients.) Others completed the map of the eye. A typical map divides the eye into sections, using the image of a clock face as a base. So, for example, if you want to know the condition of a patient’s thyroid gland, you need not touch the patient to feel for any enlargement of the gland. Nor do you need to do any tests of the gland itself. All you need to do is look in the iris of the right eye at about 2:30 and the iris of the left eye at about 9:30. Discolorations, flecks, streaks, etc. in those parts of the eyes are all you need concern yourself with, if it is the condition of the thyroid you wish to know. For problems with the vagina or penis, look at 5 o’clock in the right eye. And so on. An iridologist can do an examination with nothing more than an iridology map, a magnifying glass, a flashlight, and a vivid imagination.

If von Péczely’s reasoning is typical, we can surmise that he and other iridologists deceived themselves by looking for and finding correlations between eye markings and illness (confirmation bias). They were working with vague notions of “markings” and “illness.” Diseases may not have been precisely or accurately diagnosed  in many cases. They were able to validate iridology by finding many correlations that in fact were not established as causal relationships by rigorously defined controlled studies. Some of their correlations may be accurate, but many are undoubtedly bogus

Iridology_Chart

Do you know iridology real or fake?

 

Scientific Studies

In 1979 Bernard Jensen and two other proponents failed a scientific test in which they examined photographs of the eyes of 143 persons in an attempt to determine which ones had kidney impairments. (Forty-eight had been diagnosed with a standard kidney function test, and the rest had normal function.) The three iridologists showed no statistically significant ability to detect which patients had kidney disease and which did not. One iridologist, for example, decided that 88% of the normal patients had kidney disease, while another judged that 74% of patients sick enough to need artificial kidney treatment were normal [3]. Click here to see an example of Jensen’s iridology chart.

In 1980, an experienced Australian iridologist underwent two tests. In the first, he examined photographs of 15 patients who had been medically evaluated and had a total of 33 health problems. The iridologist did not correctly diagnose any of these problems. In three cases he named a part of the body that had had trouble (for example, he said “lesion in throat area” for a patient whose tonsils had been removed during childhood), but he completely missed the other 30 problem areas and made 60 incorrect diagnoses. In the second trial, four people had their eyes photographed when they were in good health and rephotographed when they reported being ill. The iridologist made a large number of (incorrect) diagnoses from the initial photographs and was unable to accurately identify any organ that underwent a change when the health problem arose. He was also asked to compare iris photographs of another healthy individual taken only two minutes apart. He made five incorrect diagnoses for the first of these and four different incorrect ones for the second [4].

In the late 1980s, five leading Dutch iridologists failed a similar test in which they were shown stereo color slides of the right iris of 78 people, half of whom had gallbladder disease. None of the five could distinguish between the patients with gallbladder disease and the people who were healthy. Nor did they agree with each other about which was which [5]. These negative results, of course, are not surprising, because there is no known mechanism by which body organs can be represented or transmit their health status to specific locations in the iris.

In another study, researchers took color photographs of the eyes of 30 patients with ulcerative colitis, 25 with coronary heart disease, 30 with asthma, 30 with psoriasis, and a control group matched for age and gender. The photographs were coded and analyzed by an investigator, both manually and by a computer program according to criteria generated by leading iridologists. Using either method, discrimination between cases and controls was not different from what would be expected by chance. The authors concluded that “diagnosis of these diseases cannot be aided by an iridological-style analysis.” [6]

In 1998, Eugene Emery, a science writer for the Providence Journal, tested the ability of two iridologists to assess his health and to match slide he had prepared of the eyes of eight people who had been medically diagnosed. Both iridologists scored very poorly [7].

In 2000, Dr. Edzard Ernst issued a thorough review of published reports up to that time. Noting that none of the “positive” studies had been properly designed, he concluded:

Might iridology be doing any harm? Waste of money and time are two obvious undesired effects. The possibility of false-positive diagnoses, ie, diagnosing—and subsequently treating—conditions that did not exist in the first place, seems more serious. The real problem, however, might be false-negative diagnoses: someone may feel unwell, go to an iridologist, and be given a clean bill of health. Subsequently, this person could be found to have a serious disease. In such cases, valuable time for early treatment (and indeed lives) can be lost through the use of iridology [8].

behavioral iridology 2

In another study, three iridologists and ten optometry students were shown color iris slides of 30 people with who had fractured an arm or leg and 30 controls without trauma history. Jensen and several other iridologists were consulted about the study’s design. None of the participants demonstrated significant diagnostic accuracy [9]. Fractures were chosen as the medicalk condition to see whether von Peczely original claim about the owl with a broken leg could be reproduced in humans.

A study published in 2005 tested whether iridology could be useful in diagnosing common forms of cancer. An experienced practitioner examined the eyes of 68 people who had proven cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, or colorectum, and 42 for whom there was no medical evidence of cancer. The practitioner, who was unaware of their gender or medical details, was asked to suggest up to five diagnoses for each person and his results were then compared with each subject’s known medical diagnosis. Iridology correctly diagnosed cancer in only 3 of the 68 cases [10].

Worrall has noted the ways iridologists try to excuse their failures:

Proponents . . . use a number of ways to rationalize their inconsistencies. One may claim to make subclinical diagnoses; that is, sometimes years before there are signs or symptoms of disease. Or one may claim to use iridology to rate a subject’s constitution or susceptibility to disease. Another might dispute the medical tests used to confirm a medical diagnosis and 路may contest existence of the disease. Others may diagnose hypothetical and imagined disorders using terms such as toxic settlement, chronic weakness, or underactivity of an organ or system These broad characterizations of a subject’s state of health contrast with the detail contained in iris charts, and they are not easily quantifiable for study [9].

Disillusionment

Herbalist Michael Tierra has described how he became disillusioned with iridology. After making various observations, he stopped using it but still hoped that it would turn out to have some value. Then, however:

A younger colleague fully equipped with the most up-to-date specialized iridology equipment introduced himself and stated that he wanted to give iridology readings at my clinic and at the same time monitor the course of my patients over a period of six months.

Given the fact that for most of us as well my patients six months is quite a long period, there was ample opportunity for many of these to go through a variety of health-related changes. Some people became well and got sick again with either the same or perhaps a different set of symptoms, others suffered injuries or operations. They all had their irises repeatedly photographed and studied by my colleague and myself. Where was Peczely’s owl or the markings he claimed to observe in patients of the 19th century Hungarian hospital ward? Where were the fine white healing lines that were supposed to knit together the small dark lacunae corresponding to the healing of operations and injuries of different parts of the body?

Our conclusion after six months: my colleague, trying to hold on to the fast disappearing shred of belief in the validity of iridology sheepishly and somewhat guiltily sold his camera to another would-be iridology enthusiast. I buried my official iridology magnifying head band in a box in a dark, hopefully soon forgotten area of my office closet, where I must confess it still remains after over 15 years, unopened [11].

Another former iridologist, Joshua David Mather Sr., has written a detailed account of the origin and termination of his beliefs. He began studying iridology at age nine when his father became a practitioner. He abandoned it at age 25 after examining polaroid films of many patients and finding out that although their symptoms often improved, their eye markings never changed [12].

behavioral iridology

The Bottom Line

Iridology makes no anatomic or physiologic sense. It is not merely worthless. Incorrect diagnoses can unnecessarily frighten people, cause them to waste money seeking medical care for nonexistent conditions, or steer them away from necessary medical care when a real problem is overlooked.

Some multilevel distributors are using iridology as a basis for recommending dietary supplements and/or herbs. Anyone who does this and is not a licensed health professional would be guilty of practicing medicine without a license, which is a violation of state law.

If you encounter anyone practicing iridology, please complain to your state attorney general.

References

  1. About iris constitutions. Guild of Naturopathic Iridologists International Web site, accessed August 20, 2004.
  2. Worrall RS. Iridology: Diagnosis or delusion? Skeptical Inquirer 7(3):23-35, 1983.
  3. Mehrotra H and others. Does iris change over time? PLOS One 8(11):e78333, 2013.
  4. Simon A and others. An evaluation of iridology. JAMA 242:1385-1387, 1979.
  5. Cockburn DM. A study of the validity of iris diagnosis. Australian Journal of Optometry. 64:154-157, 1981.
  6. Knipschild P. Looking for gall bladder disease in the patient’s iris. British Medical Journal 297:1578-1581, 1988.
  7. Buchanan TJ and others. An investigation of the relationship between anatomical features in the iris and systematic disease with reference to iridology. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 4:98-102, 1996.
  8. Emery CE. Iridology: Do the eyes have it? Nutrition Forum 6:5-6, 1989.
  9. Ernst E. Iridology: Not useful and potentially harmful. Archives of Ophthalmology 118:120-121, 2000.
  10. Worrell R and others. Iridology: Diagnostic validity in orthopedic trauma. The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 6:63-67, 2002.
  11. Münstedt K and others Can iridology detect susceptibility to cancer? A prospective case-controlled study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11;515-519, 2005.
  12. Tierra M. A comparative evaluation of diagnostic systems used in herbal medicine. Accessed Dec 23, 1998.
  13. Mather JD. Confessions of a former iridologist. Quackwatch, Sept 10, 2004.

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