Iridology: Using alternative medicine to unlock genetic clues through the eye

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but could they also be the mirrors to our health?

Roland Pankiewich has used iridology for years as an assessment tool to gauge his health.

"A lot of people don’t trust these alternative practices. They think it’s a little ‘woo woo,’ a little out there, Pankiewich said. 

But holistic iridologist Jessica Halpern says while holistic medicine is sometimes difficult for some to accept, she believes it works and says iridology can help see if someone has an increased likelihood to develop a particular disease based on their genetic makeup.  

"I can see predispositions. I can tell someone I see a genetic predisposition," Halpern said.

Iridology is an alternative medicine that studies the external structure of the eye. Iridologists believe that by looking at the iris and pupil and examining eye color, they can unlock genetic clues about a person’s health. 

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"Everything going on in the body registers through the brain, and the brain sends the signal to the eye," Halpern said.

"So through the iris of the eye, which is the colored part, we can see.. the health of the body systems," she continued. 

Halpern became fascinated with iridology 20 years ago after battling hormonal issues and a blood condition. She says doctors were not able to pinpoint the cause, so at the urging of a friend, she went to an iridologist, then became one. 

Halpern stresses she is not a doctor. This is where things get a little controversial. 

When told that the majority of scientific research and many doctors in general reject the claims of iridology, Halpern said, "I think a lot of them don't want it to interfere with what they're doing. Don't forget they make a lot of money prescribing medications." 

Still, some research suggests the results don’t match the claims of iridology.

For example, a 2005 study published in The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine tested whether iridology could help diagnose common cancers. The study included 110 subjects, 68 with diagnosed cancers, 42 with no cancer. The iridologists detected only three of the 68 cancer cases.

"That is a practice that, as an allopathic doctor, as an MD, I don't believe in, I don't practice," said Board Certified Family Practitioner Dr. Jason Littleton. He said a deeper health dive is needed.

"I deal more with blood work, tests, imagining tests, and I also deal with physical exams. I deal with history."

But Roland Pankiewich says iridology has helped him manage his family’s mental health history. "I have some mental health issues going on in my family, so I feel iridology can help predetermine if I may have to deal with something like that down the road," Pankiewich said. "For me, it’s been scary accurate to the point where I’ve had pain on one side of my body, and it’s been obvious in my eye without me telling the practitioner that there was something going on."

Halpern emphasizes she is no replacement for a doctor. 

"You need both," she said. "You know, I can’t do what a doctor does. I can’t operate on you and I don’t give prescriptions. I never take away from the medical doctor. It’s definitely a compliment." 

She said a typical iridology visit costs between $150 and $300.