Myths & Old Wivesí Tales About Your Eyes
A CLEAR VIEW OF EYE
by Melvin Rubin, M.D., M.S. and
Lawrence Winograd, M.D.
There are more old wives' tales
about the eye and vision than you can shake a stick at! Some of them are
outrageously impossible. Others have just enough believeability that they
deserve to be dealt with. Let's look at some of these myths and tales and
set them straight.
MYTH: Reading in dim or poor light is harmful to your
eyes, may ruin them, or may cause you to need eyeglasses.
TRUTH: Your eyes are not harmed by
reading in dim light. They may get tired because of the extra effort it
takes to see clearly, but no damage will occur.
MYTH: Using the eyes too much for close work such as
reading is the reason people need glasses (or need bifocals).
TRUTH: There is no hard evidence
that using your eyes to read, study, work, etc. will cause you to need
glasses. Any nearsightedness is probably due to your heredity. If you need
bifocals to see up close, blame your longevity.
MYTH: Using your eyes too much can wear them out.
TRUTH: Eyes are not like light
bulbs! They can last your entire lifetime if they are healthy (or have
conditions that are treatable). Their health has nothing to do with the
number of hours you use them.
MYTH: Holding reading material up close will damage a
TRUTH: The place where reading
material is held has no effect on the health of the eyes or the need for
glasses. Many children find it comfortable to read close-up and their very
good focusing ability makes it easy for them to do so. (Nearsighted
children hold things close to their eyes because they see much better at
close range. However, this does not cause nearsightedness to develop.)
MYTH: Wearing someone else's glasses may damage your
TRUTH: Although you may not see very
well with them, no harm can come from wearing eyeglasses that are not your
MYTH: Wearing glasses all the time will make you so
dependent on them that you will see poorly without them.
TRUTH: Wearing eyeglasses will never
make your eyes worse. Some refractive errors increase as you get older. If
you have been wearing glasses, they may appear to be responsible, but they
are not. Also, once you have enjoyed clear vision with glasses, it may
seem that your eyes are worse when you take them off.
MYTH: If you need corrective lenses, your eyes are not
TRUTH: The need for eyeglasses has
nothing to do with the health of your eyes. You simply have a normal
variation in the size, length, or shape of one or more parts of the
eyeball, or some changes that occur normally with age.
MYTH: Exercises can correct nearsightedness (myopia).
TRUTH: There is no evidence that any
type of exercise makes any difference. Some people with myopia can learn
to squint their lids together, which can momentarily improve their vision
enough to pass eye tests, but this will not change the myopia.
MYTH: The wrong diet can cause you to need glasses. A
good diet can do away with your need to wear glasses.
TRUTH: There is no scientific
evidence that diet plays any role in the need for glasses, nor will a
change in diet or a special diet or vitamins make any difference. This
myth may be based on the fact that there are a few eye diseases related to
lack of vitamins or to malnutrition, especially in people who are the
victims of famine or primitive conditions.
MYTH: Eating a lot of carrots will give you good eyes
TRUTH: The only basis for this myth
is that carrots contain vitamin A, which, in small amounts, is necessary
for the eyes to function. A normal diet contains all the vitamin A anyone
needs. Too much may even be damaging to your health.
MYTH: Daily eye exercises will keep the eye muscles in
TRUTH: Being alive and looking
around at your world is all that is necessary to keep your muscles
"toned." Any extra effort is a waste of time and has no benefit.
MYTH: If you cross your eyes on purpose, they can get
TRUTH: There is no way that you can
make your eyes cross permanently. (So leave your kids alone when they do
it to aggravate you.)
MYTH: Surgery will not be necessary for crossed eyes or
other eye muscle problems if proper exercises are done.
TRUTH: Many eye muscle problems
respond to treatment by glasses, patching and orthoptics (special eye
exercises). Others can only be corrected with surgery, which is sometimes
supplemented with exercises.
MYTH: If you masturbate, you can cause a need for
TRUTH: No, there is no way that this
ridiculous myth can be true.
MYTH: It is safe to look at an eclipse of the sun
through several darkened negatives or a piece of smoked glass.
TRUTH: It is never safe to look
directly at an eclipse through any device except those scientifically
designed for that purpose. Because people believe the myth, eclipses of
the sun create a lot of visual loss.
MYTH: Prolonged viewing of computer screens damages
TRUTH: There is no scientific
evidence that any permanent damage to your eyes can occur in this way.
MYTH: Sitting too close to the TV set is bad for your
eyes. To keep from damaging your eyes, view television is a dark room with
only a small lamp on top of the set.
TRUTH: Whether the room is dark or
lighted, or whether the light is in front of or behind you, is a matter of
personal preference and comfort. It will not make any difference to the
health of your eyes.
MYTH: Cataracts (lens opacities) are caused by overuse
of the eyes.
TRUTH: Cataracts are usually related
to age and many years of exposure to bright sunlight. They have nothing to
do with how you use your eyes.
MYTH: Cataracts can be treated with eyedrops or
TRUTH: Once a cataract has
developed, there is no proven medication or eyedrop that can make it go
away. The only clear-cut treatment for cataracts that require treatment
(not all of them do) is surgery.
MYTH: Cataracts are hereditary. If your mom or dad had
them, you are bound to also have them.
TRUTH: This one is mostly untrue.
Although there are certain, uncommon types of cataracts that run in
families, the most common type is related to age and has no predictable
MYTH: Contact lenses can stop myopia from progressing.
TRUTH: Because many adolescents
begin wearing contact lenses around the time their myopia is stopping or
slowing down anyway, there seems to be a cause-and-effect relationship.
But studies have shown this is not true. There is a treatment program
called orthokeratology, in which contact lenses are used to flatten cornea
and thereby reduce nearsightedness; but the change is small, temporary,
and in most cases does not reduce myopia enough to eliminate glasses
Excerpted from Taking Care of
Your Eyes: A Collection of the Patient Education Handouts Used by
America's Leading Eye Doctors. Triad Communications. Inc. $24.95.
Available in local bookstores or call 800.526.525.6902or