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does wearing prescription eyeglasses make your eyes weaker

Just last month, we published a fun post on the myths and wives’ tales making the regular rounds about eyes and vision care. It’s a fascinating and important topic because the more accurate information you have, the more you can be informed and proactive about eye and vision care

Today, we want to talk about another thing we hear from patients in our office almost weekly: the idea that wearing prescription eyeglasses weakens eye muscles OR that it can weaken the eyes or make worsen your vision.

Wearing Prescription Eyeglasses Support Vision And Focus

The conditions that affect your refractive error (blurred vision) and determine the various measurements on your eyeglass prescription cannot be weakened or made worse by wearing eyeglasses.

A range of conditions cause blurred vision, from near- or farsightedness to astigmatism and other diagnoses. Most of them have far more to do with the anatomical features of the eye than they have to do with the strength of the muscles and muscle groups that help the eye focus.

Eyeglasses and contacts do not alter eye anatomy

Depending on your eye’s anatomy and the strength of the muscles, you may or may not need glasses. Anyone who passes a routine eye exam and doesn’t need glasses usually has 20/20 vision or better. According to compiled statistics from optometrists, about 35% of the adult population has 20/20 vision or better. About 30% of those have 20/15 vision, and only about 1% have 20/10 vision. That means that 65% of adults in the United States require glasses to see what others can see clearly at 20, 15, or 10 feet away. 

Eyeglasses and contacts are superficial vision corrections. By superficial, we mean they are used on the body’s surface and don’t change any part of the eye’s anatomy (we should note that poorly fitting or poorly maintained contacts can interact with the eye’s surface, but that’s a different story…). 

All that eyeglasses and contacts do is rest on your face (glasses) or on top of your eyes’ surface (contacts) and correct the anatomical anomalies that cause blurred vision. They do not physically interact with the root causes of blurred or diminished vision (changes in the length or shape of the eye, lens, cornea, damaged tissue, etc.). Therefore, wearing prescription eyeglasses cannot weaken or make eye conditions worse.

Weak eyes are the result of weak muscles

There is a difference between weak eyes and vision loss. Eye muscles can be weak, while vision loss worsens. So weak eyes are the result of weak or lazy eye muscles. Sometimes it’s the result of an inherited condition. Other times, eye muscles may weaken due to a medical condition, nerve damage, or palsy.  Weak eye muscles can affect vision because they cause eyes to wander off track or prevent the normal function of the other anatomical parts of the eye that help it focus or communicate with the optic nerve. For example, weak eye muscles are always a partial or full cause of lazy eyes or crossed eyes. Other conditions associated with muscle weakness causing blurred or double vision include ophthalmoplegia and myasthenia gravis.

If the eye muscles are weak, the eye can’t focus as it should, regardless of whether everything else about the eye is in good shape. In this case, there is a chance that eye exercises can be used to strengthen the eye muscles and improve vision. Consider it a case of “eye physical therapy.”

Eye exercises and other treatments designed to strengthen weak eye muscles are frequently used to correct weak eye muscles to the best of their ability. For example, children with lazy eyes are often given a patch to place over their strongest eye. This forces the weak eye to work harder to focus, strengthening the connection with the optic nerve. Their optometrist or ophthalmologist will also give them a series of eye exercises that strengthen the muscles that support focus.

Similar techniques may be used to support the development of weak eye muscles and a weak eye-optic nerve connection for people with crossed eyes. If the conditions involving weak muscles are slight enough, eye exercises may completely correct the issue. However, in most cases, eye exercises are used in conjunction with prescription lenses. 

Pushing the eyes to focus causes eye strain

People who believe the false idea that eyeglasses prevent the eye from working as hard as it should and that not wearing glasses helps the eye grow stronger are not helping their eyes or vision at all. When the eyes are straining to see (very different from when they’re involved in intentional exercises designed to strengthen them), the person experiences eye strain.

And while eye strain doesn’t permanently damage or worsen vision, it does cause the person to suffer the symptoms of eye strain:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain/discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Inability to focus

If the eye strain is combined with frequent screen use, you may also develop dry eye.

Accurate Diagnosis And Eyeglass Prescriptions Make Eyes Stronger

The key to ensuring eye muscles are as strong as they can be and the clearest vision possible is to observe your annual eye exam appointment with an optometrist. We’d never recommend any prescriptive lenses if we believed they would weaken your eyes or worsen your vision.

Are you experiencing blurred or double vision? Has reading become more of a challenge since approaching your fifties? Then contact us to schedule an appointment at the Atlantic Eye Insitute for a comprehensive eye exam. We’ll do all we can to ensure you walk away with sharper focus and the lens prescriptions or treatments necessary to maintain optimal eye and vision health.

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