You’d never know there are so many myths about eyes and eye health until you spend a few days hanging out in an optometrist’s office. Unfortunately, misinformation about eyes and vision health abounds, and we’re here to set the record straight.
And don’t forget scheduling your annual eye exam and asking any questions you have is one of the best ways to learn what’s true and what’s not about your eyes.
A Truth And 10 Myths About Eyes
Let’s start with one of the biggest myths out there…
Eating carrots improves vision
This is a myth, but it’s a myth based on a fact. The fact is that Vitamins a and e are two of the most important vitamins linked to eye health – and carrots have high levels of both. Even so, eating tons of carrots won’t necessarily improve your vision.
However, a healthy diet supports vision, minimizing your risk of the most common lifestyle-related vision issues. So, keep eating carrots and other fresh vegetables while making other smart food choices.
All babies are born with blue eyes
While a newborn baby’s eyes may appear blue, they’re actually reflecting available light. This causes the colorless iris tissue to appear blue or grey. By about 12 months, the cells in the iris produce melanin, and the baby’s permanent eye color emerges.
Kids can’t get an eye exam until they can read is one of the myths about eyes
This eye myth leads to many children living with undiagnosed vision loss or anatomical issues requiring immediate attention. Adults typically believe this because they’re used to the Snellen Chart, which uses letters of various sizes as reference points.
However, we have special eye charts for children, non-native speakers, or anyone else who can’t read. These charts use universal symbols. The combination of technological innovation and machines that analyze the eyes’ focus, combined with special vision charts, means we can test vision at a very early age.
You’re born with adult-sized eyes
Indeed, babies’ eyes often look large in their tiny heads, but the eyeballs aren’t full-grown. We’re born with eyes that are about two-thirds of their final size. In fact, children born without an eye or who have to have an eye removed due to eye trauma, a defect, or cancer have prosthetic eyes. These eye substitutes are periodically resized to fit proportionally in the child’s face until their eyes are completely full-grown, at which point they keep their final model.
Sitting too close to the TV makes you go blind
Sorry, mom, dad, and grandparents – this simply isn’t true. There’s nothing about sitting too close to a TV screen that harms or diminishes vision. If you have a child that always wants to sit closer to the TV, or cocks his/her head at an angle to see, it could be because undiagnosed vision loss makes it blurry from further away or eye coordination issues cause problems. Once your optometrist performs a pediatric eye exam, screentime limits help reduce risks of eye strain, but sitting close to the TV is okay with us if it’s okay with you.
Brown-eyed parents can’t have a blue or green-eyed child
Genetic probability means two brown-eyed parents are more likely to have brown-eyed children. However, recessive gene recombination makes it possible for two brown-eyed parents to have a blue-eyed child. In most cases, it’s because those brown-eyed parents are “heterozygous,” meaning they have a dominant brown-eyed gene (B), but they also carry a recessive blue-eyed gene (b).
This information may spark memories of high school biology, Gregor Mendel, and the punnet square (which, it turns out, isn’t an accurate representation of genetic recombination after all). Via that model, we learned that a Bb-father and a Bb-mother can have a bb-child. However, it’s far more complicated than that because it turns out that two blue-eyed parents can have a brown-eyed child, which is where things get trickier.
If this type of stuff gets you excited, visit Khan Academy’s post, Probabilities in Genetics.
You can improve vision using eye exercises
We absolutely encourage patients to do eye exercises because they strengthen the eye muscles and maintain healthy coordination between the eyes, optic nerve, and brain. However, eye exercises don’t improve vision in the way you might think.
Most refractive errors are due to anatomical issues that are impossible to correct with exercises (LASIK surgery is available for some of those). That said, eye exercises can support focus and reduce blurred vision for patients with issues related to optical coordination, eye movement, or weakened eye muscles. Optometrists always let patients know if they’d benefit from eye exercises.
Wearing someone else’s glasses damages your eyes
Here’s another one we’ve heard repeatedly. We guess that, like the TV myth, parents are the ones who said this to keep kids from playing around with their glasses – or a sibling’s glasses. In any case, wearing eyeglasses with the wrong prescription won’t be comfortable and almost inevitably causes eye strain, but it doesn’t cause permanent damage.
Wearing glasses weakens the eyes and makes vision worse
Wearing glasses or contact lenses cannot weaken the eyes or worsen vision. These tools are external optical aids and they don’t change eye anatomy in any way. We prescribe corrective lenses to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia; none of them is correctable without glasses or surgery.
The only exception to that are glasses specifically designed to treat children with a lazy eye or crossed eyes. These glasses are specifically designed to strengthen the weaker eye muscles and coordinate them with the stronger eye. If there are no existing refractive errors once a lazy eye or crossed eyes are correct, these kids get to go glasses-free once the issue is corrected.
20/20 vision is “perfect vision”
That is not necessarily the case. According to the AOA:
20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.
However, there are plenty of eye or vision issues that coexist with 20/20 vision. For example, night blindness, issues with depth perception, or color blindness have no bearing on visual acuity. Also, glaucoma is a slow-developing eye condition that eventually causes blindness, but a person with glaucoma may retain 20/20 central vision for quite some time.
One Truth About Eyes & Eye Health: Annual Eye Exams Preserve Vision
There are our Top 10 myths about eyes and eye health. And we promised you one truth.
The essential truth is that observing annual eye exams is the best thing you can do to protect your eyes and vision. Are you or your family overdue? Schedule an eye exam at the Atlantic Eye Institute.