You may have heard all sorts of things about what is good and bad for your eyes. But are they true? For “2020: The Year of the Eye,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology presents you with the facts about these 20 common eye myths.
Myth 1. All babies are born with blue eyes.
When babies are born, their eyes may sometimes appear blue while their melanin is still developing. Within about 12 months, cells begin to produce melanin. As more melanin builds up in the iris, eye color may darken.
Myth 2. Babies are born with their eyes fully-grown.
Generally, babies are born with eyes that are approximately two-thirds of their full adult size. Eyes continue to grow after birth, usually during two phases: 1) the first few years of life and 2) puberty.
Myth 3. Two brown-eyed parents can’t have a blue-eyed child.
The truth is, you can’t predict a child’s eye colors from the parents’ eye colors at all. Current research suggests that as many as 16 different genes could be responsible for eye color, explaining why two parents with the same eye color can have children with an entirely different eye color.
Myth 4. Eating carrots will improve your vision.
Vitamin A is essential for the body to maintain healthy eyesight and carrots have high amounts of this nutrient. But the body only needs a relatively small amount of vitamin A for vision, and it can be obtained through many sources such as dark, leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, dairy and fish. While eating foods rich in vitamin A can help you maintain good eyesight, it won’t improve your vision or keep you from needing glasses or contacts. Remember to eat vitamin A-rich foods together with fat to better absorb the benefits.
Myth 5. You can improve your vision with eye exercises.
Eye exercises will not improve or preserve vision or reduce the need for glasses. Your vision depends on many factors, none of which can be significantly altered with eye exercises.
However, eye exercises may be helpful for convergence insufficiency, a condition that occurs when the eyes don’t work together to focus on a nearby object, making it difficult to read.
Myth 6. Sun gazing—or, looking directly at the sun—can improve your health and well-being.
Staring at the sun for even a short time without wearing the right eye protection can damage your retina permanently and even cause blindness. Ordinary sunglasses and homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun. The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through special-purpose solar filters that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard.
Myth 7. If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.
Your eye muscles allow you to move your eyes in all directions. Looking left or right, up or down, won’t force them to remain in those positions, just as crossing the eyes won’t force them to stay that way. Crossed eyes may result from disease, uncorrected vision, or from muscle or nerve damage.
Myth 8. Only boys can be color blind.
Women can develop or inherit color blindness, but men are at much higher risk. An estimated 1 in 10 males have some form of color deficiency. Most color blind individuals are born with partial or complete lack of cones in the retina, which help distinguish the colors red, green and blue. Less frequently, color vision problems can occur later in life as the result of disease, trauma or toxic effects from drugs that damage the retina or optic nerve.
Myth 9. People who are color blind see in black and white.
Most people who are color blind see partial color. The most severe form of color blindness, in which everything is seen in shades of gray, is uncommon. Most people with color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between greens and reds.
Myth 10. Sitting very close to the TV can damage your eyes.
While sitting very close to the television may cause eyestrain or give you a headache, it will not damage vision in children or adults. However, habitually sitting close to the television may signal that the person is nearsighted and, in fact, needs glasses. Children have heightened ability to focus on nearby objects, so they might find it more comfortable to sit close to the TV.
Myth 11. Reading in dim light is harmful to your eyes.
It does not harm your eyes to read in dim light. But good lighting can make it easier to see what you are reading and keep your eyes from tiring out more quickly.
Myth 12. Using computers can damage your eyes.
Looking at a computer screen will not harm your eyes, but doing so without breaks can contribute to eyestrain, tired eyes or dry eyes. Be sure to rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking up or across the room. Blink regularly to keep your eyes well lubricated and use artificial tears to promote moisture.
Myth 13. People who wear glasses will ruin their eyes if they read fine print or do a lot of close-up work.
Reading and detail work do not wear out the eyes. But they can strain your eyes, making them tired. Taking periodic rests by gazing into the distance or looking up can help provide relief.
Myth 14. Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses will make you dependent on them.
Using your glasses won’t worsen your vision or lead to any eye disease. If you need glasses for distance or reading, it is important to use them to avoid straining your eyes and to ensure your best vision possible.
Myth 15. Wearing the wrong eyeglasses will hurt your eyes.
Wearing glasses with the incorrect prescription will not damage your eyes, but it may strain them and cause achiness or blurriness, or give you a headache. This should go away when you take the glasses off.
Myth 16. Learning disabilities are caused by eye problems.
Learning disabilities are caused by problems with how the brain processes what it sees or hears. Signs of a learning disability include trouble learning to read or write, poor grades in math or difficulty organizing thoughts and information. Sometimes poor vision can be mistaken for a learning disability. If you notice that your child is struggling in school, have them checked out by a learning specialist and an eye care provider.
Myth 17. Losing vision is an inevitable part of aging.
Many vision problems that develop as people age can be treated. Presbyopia, which is near-vision loss, and cataracts can both be remedied to allow adults to see clearly again. It is important to have eye exams on a yearly basis to catch both reversible and permanent threats to vision, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. Oftentimes, early treatment can slow or prevent vision loss.
Myth 18. A cataract must be ‘ripe’ before it is removed.
A cataract can be removed as soon as it compromises your vision. Thanks to modern advances in cataract surgery, the lens can now be removed from the eye as soon as it’s cloudy enough to make reading fine print or street signs difficult.
Myth 19. Eyes can be transplanted.
It is not possible today to transplant a whole eye because this complex organ is connected to your brain by the optic nerve. The optic nerve is made up of more than 1 million tiny nerve fibers. Once these nerve fibers are cut, they cannot be reconnected. However, ophthalmologists can transplant the cornea, which is the clear front part of your eye.
Myth 20. All eye doctors are the same.
Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians each play an important role in eye care. But their levels of training and expertise are quite different from each other.
An ophthalmologist is a medical school graduate with at least 12 years of training, including 4 years of college and at least 8 years of post-graduate medical training. Ophthalmologists are the only eye care providers worldwide who are licensed to practice both medicine and surgery and are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.
An optometrist completes at least 3 years of college and 4 years of optometry training, and is licensed to do eye exams and vision tests, prescribe and disperse corrective lenses, detect certain eye abnormalities and prescribe medicine for some eye diseases.
An optician is a professional who prepares, measures and adapts the fit of eyeglass or contact prescriptions written by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Though an optician is not an eye doctor, they do complete a 2-year degree in opticianry, or a 6,000-hour apprenticeship.
If you have any questions or concerns about your eyes or your vision, speak with an ophthalmologist or optometrist.