10 Common Vision Myths: Part 1
Our parents had fun perpetuating old wives’ tales and cutesy untruths about our vision, but how much of what we think we know about our eyes is actually true? We’ve come up with a list of 10 Common Vision Myths and deciphered fact from fiction! You may be surprised by what you learn!
10. Corrective lenses (glasses/contacts) ‘treat’ vision problems
Glasses and contacts correct refractive errors in our eyes caused by misshapen eyeballs or eye muscle weaknesses. This means the light entering our eyes is focussed directly onto the retina reducing or eliminating blurred vision.
Glasses ‘cure’ vision problems in the same way that pain relievers are seen to ‘cure’ headaches; glasses or contacts may eliminate the symptoms of underlying vision problems (just as a pain reliever will relieve the symptoms of a headache), but neither method treats the underlying cause of the problem. In these cases vision therapy can be effective in treating the cause of vision problems – usually relating to complications with ocular muscles – to prevent or reduce use of visual aids and sharpen vision.
9. Laser eye surgery is a cure for vision problems
Depending on the nature of the vision problem and how it was acquired, laser eye surgery can be an effective although risky treatment. In the same way that glasses and lenses correct refractive errors, laser eye surgery reshapes the cornea to allow light to focus accurately onto the retina.
For patients whose vision problems are attributed to muscular weakness or accommodation problems however, laser eye surgery offers only a short term fix. Though the initial results may be impressive, patients will often soon after require near focus glasses as their focussing ability, known as ‘accommodation’, is locked at a fixed point as part of the laser procedure.
Though the surgery is generally considered ‘safe’ the use of lasers on your eyes poses a great risk to your sight and these surgeries can and do go wrong. You should research thoroughly prior to your procedure to ensure your eye condition can be treated effectively by laser surgery and consider whether the risk outweighs the benefit in your individual case.
8. Eye exercises cannot treat vision problems
The idea that corrective lenses are the only treatment for vision problems is old news! In fact, this school of thought dates back to theorem developed over 150 years ago! As we have discussed, corrective lenses only resolve symptomatic complaints and do not address underlying vision problems in many patients.
Just as you can strengthen and tone your larger muscle groups through resistance exercise, your eyes can be trained to deliver sharper, stronger and sustained vision. Like physical exercise, you won’t see results overnight. Vision therapy takes patience and persistence and for this reason, many eye doctors prefer to prescribe corrective lenses to resolve the complaint without treating its cause.
Any vision problem should be comprehensively examined before the provision of corrective lenses. Intervention with vision therapy could cure your vision problem or reduce your reliance on visual aids.
7. Carrots can help you see in the dark
Our folks loved this one and with good reason! This dinner table myth has kids shovelling down beta carotene in the hope that their vision skills may one day match that of their childhood superheroes! Though carrots will not be replacing infra-red technology any time soon, their high concentration of vitamin A may assist in general maintenance of good ocular health.
Unless you are already deficient in vitamin A, consuming kilos of carrots will not directly improve your night vision. A diet deficient in vitamin A however, can result in reduced visual acuity in low light conditions – a symptom which can be treated by increasing vitamin A intake! So, there is no need to feel too guilty when you use the old adage “they will help you to see in the dark” to get your kids eating their vegetables!
6. Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes
Maybe it was just your dad wanting to get your head out of the way of the TV, but this vision myth was and still is commonly perpetuated in many households! There is no definitive research that suggests proximity to televisual stimulus will damage your vision.
It is normal for younger children to have difficulty converging (focussing) and all young children during developmental years are mildly farsighted. This is why many young children find it easier to sit closer to the television. In fact, allowing them to sit closer to the television during these years may prevent eye strain!
It is important to note that outdoor play develops a child’s visual spatial orientation, visualisation and fine motor skills. Though sitting ‘too close’ to the TV may not damage a child’s vision, prolonged exposure to television and computers and lack of outdoor play may compromise proper development of their full visual skill set.
If you are concerned that your child is sitting too close to the TV and may have a vision problem, ensure they have a comprehensive eye examination.
5. Your level of vision is mostly genetic, some of us are just ‘unlucky’
Your visual ability is partially attributed to your genes, though vision is a learned skill and can be taught and honed with vision therapy. Even in cases where vision problems are attributed to genetic determinants, vision can be improved or their deterioration stalled with vision therapy.
4. Staring at the computer will damage your vision
Computer vision syndrome refers to a series of symptoms caused by prolonged computer use, though such symptoms will not cause long term damage to your vision. Our vision should not be understood as a finite commodity which can run out if overused – on the contrary, the eyes are the only part of the human body that can function optimally without rest!
Prolonged computer use or extended near vision focus in tasks such as reading can cause eye strain. When we focus on computer screens we tend not to blink as often as we should and this can cause dry eye as the lipid layer on the ocular surface is not able to replenish. Your tired, red, sore and blurry eyes at the end of the work day can be treated with dry eye therapy or frequent breaks from the computer screen.
Every fifteen minutes allow your eyes to focus on an object in the distance, blink several times and close your eyes. This will prevent many CVS symptoms.
3. Reading in the dark can cause blindness
Reading in low light may cause eye strain and is not recommended, though it will not damage your vision. To avoid headaches and eye strain symptoms we should always read in ample light with reading stimulus a comfortable distance from our eyes. Reading in low light may cause us to bring reading material closer to our faces and the resulting need to sustain convergence (focussing) will tire our visual system and may cause us to give up quite quickly anyway!
2. Going cross eyed or doing Magic Eye puzzles is bad for your eyes
On the contrary! Exercising your visual system can benefit your sight! An ability to exert control over the movement of your eyes demonstrates healthy ocular skills and these techniques are honed in a similar manner during vision therapy.
In vision therapy, eyes are required to track, focus, diverge, ‘jump’ and complete many other exercises that, with sustained practice, will improve vision. For more information on Magic Eye puzzles and why 3D viewing is an important facet of good vision, read our blog on viewing techniques.
To discourage us from going cross-eyed our parents often told us, “don’t go cross-eyed or your eyes will stay that way!” This is another untruth except in the case of strabismus or lazy eye. These conditions can result in one eye straying when placed under pressure (as in amblyopia) or one eye permanently diverging or converging (as in strabismus) but neither of these conditions are caused or worsened by going cross-eyed.
1. Too much television can give you square eyes
It is impossible for your eyes to go ‘square.’ This is another myth that simply benefits parents desperate for their children to play outside!
Conditions such as astigmatism may have given rise to this myth. Astigmatism refers to a condition which is usually genetic that causes the eye to have an irregular shape. This irregular shape interferes with light refraction and causes blurred vision. Astigmatism can be caused in some cases by a weakening or strengthening of muscles around the eye causing the eye to change shape, (though this shape will be less of a ‘square’ and more of a ‘football’ shape!)
Prolonged eye strain can cause the focussing muscles inside your eyes to fatigue, and in some cases can cause this condition. It is important to have comprehensive vision examinations regularly as intervention and reduction of eye strain may prevent onset of astigmatism.
Hopefully we have ‘busted’ some of these common vision myths for you! Our visual system is the most complex system in the human body after the brain and should be taken care of, not taken for granted! Ensure you have regular comprehensive vision tests that include testing of visual skills and eye health, not just visual acuity.