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All "Myth versus Fact" about our eye sight

By editor
June 14, 2015

Several websites list "Myth versus Fact" about our eye sight, but none list all myths that exist.  We wanted to check and collect all the "old wives' stories" out there about eye sight and see if those are confirmed by the experienced ophthalmologists.  We checked several well-known eye and medical websites such as health.com, WebMD.com, kidshealth.org, geteyesmart.com, and American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).  And here is a compilation of our findings:

Myth: Spending hours in front of a computer can damage the eyes.

You may have heard that spending hours in front of the computer can hurt your eyes damage your vision, but when it comes to your eye health, these claims are completely bogus.  Here, separate fact from fiction so that you can protect your vision now – and in the future.

Using the computer doesn't hurt your eyes, says a leading ophthalmologist.  After a while, however, you can start to lose focus due to fatigue or eyestrain, which can lead to brow pain and headaches.  You may also blink less while working at a computer, making your eyes dry and irritated.  To prevent these symptoms, take regular breaks from the computer and look at objects far away.  Your monitor should also be at least 18 inches away from your face, according to the AAO.  Use hydrating drops if you feel your eyes become dry.

According to the AAO, computer use won't harm the eyes.  However, when using a computer for long periods of time, the eyes blink less than normal (like they do when reading or performing other close work).  This makes the eyes dry, which may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. So encourage your kids to take frequent breaks from Internet surfing or video games.

Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for the eyes.

Although parents have been saying this ever since TVs first found their way into our homes, there's no evidence that plunking down right in front of the TV set damages someone's eyes. The AAO says that kids can actually focus up close without eyestrain better than adults, so they often develop the habit of sitting right in front of the television or holding reading material close to their eyes.  However, sitting close to a TV may be a sign of nearsightedness.  Schedule an eye exam and check your child's vision if he or she always tends to sit too close to the TV or a computer monitor.

Myth: Reading in dim light will damage your eyes.

Reading in dim light might become more difficult with age, but it won't hurt your eyes, a leading ophthalmologist says.  Using your eyes doesn't harm them any more than listening to a symphony hurts your ears.  We all worry because a 10-year-old can see well in much less light than a 40-year-old.  That’s because children's retinas simply tend to work better.  Kids also don't have loss of their near vision.  So reading in dim light isn't hard for them, but it's tough for us. Reading is always good for your eyes and your brain.

Myth: You don’t need regular eye exams if you don’t have any obvious vision problems.

Routine eye exams are essential, because many serious conditions involving the eyes don't cause symptoms.  In many cases, the only way to know there is a problem is with an eye exam.  The general rule is to visit the ophthalmologist every two years.  People typically develop problems like glaucoma, for example, after the age of 40, and you may not have any symptoms until you lose your vision.  Early diagnosis and treatment prevents blindness.  And eye exams should happen more frequently as you age.  Anyone age 65 or older should have a yearly exam.

Myth: Squinting can damage your vision.

The worst thing that can result from squinting are those pesky wrinkles around your eyes known as crow's feet.  However, although squinting doesn't actually hurt your eyes, it could be a sign of an underlying problem.  Children with double vision may squint to help them see.  Squinting could also be a sign that you need a new eyeglass prescription.  If squinting improves your vision, you might need distance glasses.  It could also mean that you have inflammation of the eye that causes sensitivity to light.

Myth: Eating carrots can improve your eyesight.

So it turns out Mom was right about this one — carrots are good for your eyes, but they aren’t the only foods that boast vision superpowers.  Carotenoids are also found in spinach, kale, and other colorful vegetables, such as red, orange, and yellow peppers.  Dietary carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, provide a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk for certain cancers and eye disease, according to a review article published in 2013 in the journal Nutrients.  For example, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in parsley and egg yolk, have been linked to a lower risk for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Although it's true that carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for sight, so are many other foods (asparagus, apricots, nectarines, and milk, for example).  A well-balanced diet can provide the vitamin A needed for good vision, says the AAO.

Myth: There’s nothing you can do to prevent vision loss.

When it comes to protecting your vision, you are not powerless.  Having good health, which includes controlling blood pressure and diabetes, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking, will help protect your eyes.  By controlling all these things, you are protecting your vision now and in the future.  If you have diabetes, careful management is the best way to prevent vision loss, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).  Regular physical activity can also keep your blood sugar levels in check and help protect your vision.

Myth: If you cross your eyes, they'll stay that way.

Contrary to the old saying, eyes will not stay that way if you cross them.  If your child is crossing one eye constantly, schedule an evaluation by an ophthalmologist, as it could be a symptom of some other issues.

Myth: If parents have poor eyesight, their kids will inherit that trait.

Unfortunately, this one is sometimes true.  If you need glasses for good vision or have developed an eye condition (such as cataracts), your kids might inherit that same trait.  Discuss your family's visual history with your doctor.  Many eye problems are genetic, but as with all genetic problems, inheritance is not guaranteed. There's a higher risk, but it doesn't mean you're going to suffer.  The important thing is that some eye conditions can definitely be passed down.

Things like glaucoma are definitely inheritable.  That really reinforces the fact that it's generally good to get a general eye exam.

Some problems are gray areas -- combinations of inheritance and environment -- such as refractive errors.  Studies show that problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness seem to have some relation to whether a parent had the problem.

Of course, some vision problems have nothing to do with genetics.  Cataracts is an age-related degeneration of the lens -- that's something that happens to everybody.

Myth: Using a Nightlight in Your Child's Room Will Contribute to Nearsightedness.

It has been thought that using a nightlight in your child's bedroom may contribute to nearsightedness, however there is not enough evidence to support this claim.  Keeping a nightlight on in your baby's room may actually help them learn to focus and develop important eye coordination skills when they are awake.

Myth: Children With Crossed Eyes Can Be Treated.

Children are not able to outgrow strabismus -- the medical term for crossed eyes -- on their own but, with help, it can be more easily corrected at a younger age.  That's why it is important for your child to have an eye exam early, first when your child is an infant and then again by age two.

Myth: Doing eye exercises will keep you from needing glasses.

Eye exercises do not enhance or preserve vision or diminish the need for glasses. Your vision relies on the shape of your eyes, the health of your eye tissues, and many other factors, none of which can be appreciably altered with eye exercises.

Myth: You shouldn’t wear glasses all the time.  Taking a break from glasses or contact lenses allows your eyes to rest.

If you are prescribed glasses for distance or reading, use them.  Trying to read without reading glasses will simply strain your eyes and tire them out.  Using glasses won’t weaken your vision or lead to eye disease.

Myth: Wearing glasses too much will make the eyes "dependent" on them.

Refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism) change as kids get older. Many variables come into play, but most of this change is likely due to genetics and continues despite wearing glasses earlier or later or more or less. Wearing glasses does not make the eyes get worse.

Myth: If you wear glasses, not wearing them will cause your vision to deteriorate faster.

The immediate side effect of not wearing glasses if you need them is the equivalent of an art gallery tour without bothering to get a ticket.

Everything will be out of focus -- you'll have an Impressionistic view of the world.  But while trying to focus without glasses may strain your eyes, it will not cause lasting damage. While a person may squint in an attempt to see better, the eye itself will not be affected.

In the end, the primary side effect of not wearing glasses is likely to be the temporary one that accompanies accommodation -- excessive squinting is likely to give someone who typically wears glasses a headache.  Eyeglasses help you see better.  By wearing glasses your vision doesn't get worse faster, and by not wearing them, you're doing your vision a disservice.

Myth: As you get older, there's nothing you can do about your worsening vision.

Some age problems are inevitable.  Cataracts are not a disease.  It's a normal aging change, not unlike gray hair.  If everyone lived long enough, they would get cataracts.

But at the same time, cataracts, like many vision problems, can be fixed.  Cataracts, a clouding of the lens caused by the folding of proteins, can be removed to fix the problem.  There's a lot of research now on preventing cataracts.  But for other ailments, preventatives are known.

Many of the eye ailments that affect people when they age can be eased by following general health advice.  A balanced diet can play a role in preventing some problems, as can giving up smoking. Controlling cholesterol and sugar levels could help as well.

Of course, not all problems can be fixed completely.  For many eye ailments, patients' options are limited to LASIK laser eye surgery and glasses.

Myth: Two blue-eyed parents can't produce a child with brown eyes.

Two blue-eyed parents can have a child with brown eyes, although it's very rare. Likewise, two brown-eyed parents can have a child with blue eyes, although this is also uncommon.

Myth: Only boys can be color-blind.

It's estimated that up to 8% of boys have some degree of color blindness, whereas less than 1% of girls do.

Myth: The eye is full size at birth.

The eye is NOT full size at birth but continues to grow with your child.  This growth partially accounts for refractive (glasses) changes that occur during childhood.




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