Turn a Blind Eye to These Health Myths About Your Eyes

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Our eyes are critically important to us. We need good vision to safely drive, watch movies and enjoy a gorgeous sunset, so, of course, we want to take care of our eyes and keep them in tip-top shape. Unfortunately loads of myths exist about exactly how to take care of them, and what you believe to be true could very well be more fiction than fact.

Take a look at these common myths (pun intended) to see which ones are completely false and which ones could actually help improve your eye health and vision. You might be surprised to learn the truth!

Eating Carrots Improves Your Night Vision

A common myth says that eating more carrots leads to better night vision. Although carrots are high in vitamin A, they are not able to grant you better vision if you already have a healthy diet that is rich in vitamin A. Other foods that provide vitamin A include liver, egg yolks, cheese and milk.

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This urban legend goes back to World War II. The British had developed radar, and in order to hide this strategic advantage from the Nazis, they claimed their pilots had superior night vision due to eating so many carrots.

Sitting Too Close to the TV Destroys Your Eyesight

You’ve heard this one since you were a kid, standing a foot in front of the TV staring at the screen. "Move back, or you’ll go blind!" The reality is that sitting close to a screen won’t make you lose your eyesight. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be able to safely use computers, phones or tablets, either.

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However, if you find your kids are sitting super close to the screen, it could be because they have poor eyesight or nearsightedness and may need a checkup. Be sure to schedule an appointment to get their eyes checked in case they need glasses.

There’s Nothing You Can Do to Prevent Vision Loss

We’ve heard time and time again that there’s nothing you can do to prevent vision loss, particularly at older ages. That would imply that seeing a doctor makes no sense, but that couldn’t be more wrong. If you happen to have any unusual vision symptoms, you should immediately visit an optometrist.

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If you experience blurred vision, eye pain, flashes of light or floaters in your eyes suddenly, you should make an emergency appointment. Time could very well be of the essence in saving your vision under these circumstances. Don’t hesitate to take immediate action for any changes that are extremely out of the ordinary.

Using a Nightlight Contributes to Nearsightedness

Little kids get scared. The darkness closes in on them, and monsters pop up in their wild imaginations. So, they want a nightlight, but you’ve heard that it’s not a good idea to put one in their rooms because it could cause nearsightedness.

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Good news: That’s a bunch of hooey! Placing a nightlight in young children’s rooms might actually help them better learn to focus and develop important eye coordination skills when they are awake. So, don’t deprive your kiddos of a little light over a myth with no scientific support.

Artificial Sweeteners Make Your Eyes More Sensitive to Light

This one isn’t so much myth as exaggerated truth. Some studies show using artificial sweeteners like cyclamates in your beverages or food may increase your sensitivity to light. There are, however, other issues that also play into this problem, primarily your medications.

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If you’re taking antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diabetic medications or high blood pressure medications, your sensitivity to light increases. This sensitivity is compounded by the combination of using artificial sweeteners and any of these medications. If you’ve had this issue, consult a doctor to have some blood tests done.

Reading in Dim Light Damages Your Eyesight

If you’re starting to unwind with a fantastic book as the sun begins to set, you might not realize that the room is growing darker while you keep flipping the pages. Never fear — that old myth that reading in dim light will damage your vision is just that: a myth.

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It may not be the best habit to have, but just like watching TV too close to the screen, it won’t actually destroy your sight. You might get a headache or experience some eyestrain, but it won’t do any permanent damage. Your eyes are more resilient than that.

Looking Straight at the Sun Blinds You

You’ve probably heard this one many times before: Looking directly into the sun will instantly blind you for life. In the short term, that claim is completely bogus. You will probably get a headache and temporarily not be able to see too well. In the long term, however, it can definitely do permanent damage to your retina. Any direct exposure to sunlight adds to this.

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In fact, all exposure to ultraviolet radiation adds to the cumulative damage that occurs over the years. Repeated exposure has been linked to eye disorders like solar retinitis, cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and corneal dystrophies. So, if you’re tempted to take a gaze, don’t. This "myth" has some basis in fact.

Staring at a Solar Eclipse Can Strengthen Your Eyes

Conversely, some people have spread the idea around that looking directly into the sun is like a sort of workout for your eyes. If you can endure it long enough, you’ll end up with stronger vision and healthier eyes. Don’t believe it for a second!

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Although looking into the sun won’t immediately destroy your vision, staring at the sun isn’t a good idea at all. This is especially true during a solar eclipse. You should never look directly at a solar eclipse. You must have protective eyewear on if you decide to try.

Wearing Contact Lenses or Glasses Makes You Dependent on Them

A lot of folks have come to believe that wearing contacts or glasses means your eyes get weaker. Of course, your prescription may change over the years, but those natural changes in your eyes have nothing to do with your lenses. This vision loss has to do with degenerative issues or other eye problems.

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Wearing glasses doesn’t make your vision weaker, and it also doesn’t prevent vision deterioration. Lenses only make your vision clearer while you’re wearing them. Constantly wearing them has no adverse effect on your vision.

Children with Crossed Eyes Can Be Treated

We’ve all noticed the kids that have that cross-eyed condition called strabismus. You may have also heard that those crossed eyes would just correct themselves over the years, but that’s not correct at all. In fact, if you don’t get the condition treated at a young age, there may be more issues ahead for them.

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Take your child to the optometrist early for an eye exam, even as an infant, to help avoid some of these potential issues. This condition and amblyopia, also called "lazy eye," can be corrected with medical assistance through the right prescription and care of a doctor.

Eyesight Gets Worse with Increasing Age

A lot of people believe the myth that older age means you are going to face a host of vision problems and start to lose vision quality. These potential issues include vision loss, retinal damage and a variety of eye-related diseases. However, the truth is not so simple.

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So much of our health — including eye health — depends on having a balanced, healthy diet. Getting routine eye exams and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking and sugar can also make a huge difference in eye health. If you take care to make sure your body is healthy, your eyes will also be healthy, even in your later years.

Only People with Bad Eyes Can Get Glaucoma

Here’s a good one for you: Only folks with poor eye health get eye diseases. The reality is that glaucoma, one of the most serious eye diseases, isn’t the result of bad eyes. People with 20/20 vision who have never experienced poor vision can suddenly develop the disease without any notice.

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Glaucoma symptoms can suddenly appear in people who have had good vision their whole lives and have never had symptoms before the disease started to show itself. Glaucoma becomes symptomatic in moderate or advanced stages, but early detection and treatment could help slow the advance, which is why frequent eye exams are important.

Eyeballs Are Removed During an Eye Transplant or Surgery

One pervasive and disturbing eye myth is that during eye surgery, the eyeball itself must be disconnected from the optic nerve and removed from the eye socket. Another related myth is that the whole eye can be transplanted if the original eye suffers massive damage.

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When people talk about eye surgery, they are normally talking about cataract surgery. This procedure involves removing the lens inside the eye that has become too cloudy and replacing it with an artificial lens, so the patient has clear vision. Cadaver transplants are only partial and usually include the cornea. The whole eye cannot be replaced.

Someone with Good Eyesight Doesn’t Need to Visit the Eye Doctor

Some folks think that because they don’t wear glasses, pass their driver’s license eye exams and don’t have noticeable issues, they don’t need to schedule appointments for the eye doctor. However, just like you need an annual physical exam on the rest of your body, you need an annual checkup on your eyes.

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For one thing, your vision might not be as good as you think it is. Just because your vision was declared to be 20/20 five years ago doesn’t mean that you haven’t experienced a gradual decline since then. Plus, some eye diseases are not immediately noticeable to you but are recognizable to the doctor during an exam.

You Only Need to Worry About Ultraviolet Light in the Summer

We’ve all been there. The sun is brighter in summer than it is in winter, or at least it seems that way. After all, there aren’t nearly as many days of sunshine from December to March. The reality is that we are simply more conscious of the harmful ultraviolet rays at the height of those 90-degree days in the summer.

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That does not mean that’s the only time those rays are out. No matter what season it is, you definitely need to still take eye care precautions. Wear hats, visors and sunglasses all winter long. Be mindful of those "UV Protection" stickers on the sunglasses you buy. That feature is important.

You Don’t Really Need Sunglasses and Safety Goggles

Along similar lines, there's a myth that sunglasses and safety goggles don’t provide any practical eye protection. Some workers are even unwilling to use safety goggles because they fear that looking through goggles made of polycarbonate lenses could lead to eye damage.

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While it’s possible to develop eyestrain if you have to wear them for long periods, there is no evidence that eye damage occurs. It's important to have appropriate eyewear both at home and at work. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from unhealthy UV light, while safety goggles can keep your eyes safe from a variety of injuries and accidents that could lead to permanent damage or blindness. Better safe than sorry — wear the glasses!

You Can Wear Contact Lenses Until They Bother You

Contact lenses are prescribed to be worn a certain way, and like any prescription, it’s important to follow your doctor’s orders. A common myth says that contact lenses can be worn until they start to bother you by causing pain and irritation. That’s a terrible idea. If your doctor says to change your lenses every 10 days, then change your lenses every 10 days. Don’t wait until your eyes hurt!

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It’s important to remember that the prescription isn’t a recommendation but medical advice. Trying to save money by using contact lenses for too long can cause long-term issues. Treat your optometrist like every other doctor and follow their directions closely.

Diabetes Doesn’t Necessarily Increase Eye Health Risk

For some reason, a ridiculous rumor keeps floating around that diabetes isn’t "that bad" a condition to have. Specifically, there seems to be this strange idea that diabetes can’t increase the risk for eye health, but if you talk to anyone who has this disease, they will quickly tell you that isn’t true.

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Developing diabetes doesn’t guarantee you will have increased eye health problems, but it certainly does increase the risk for glaucoma, blindness and other eye damage. Early detection is always the best way to prevent this, so be sure to get regular eye checkups if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Poor Eyesight and Vision Loss Are Genetic

There is one crazy myth that says only those with a family history of vision loss will have eye issues. Recent scientific research has shown that many eye conditions, including glaucoma, do have certain genetic factors to take into consideration, but they are not the only factors in play.

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Even if your family has a history of lifelong perfect vision, it's important to have regular exams. If you don't know your family’s medical history, you can have genetic testing done to determine which, if any, diseases you may be at risk for developing. Eye issues may or may not be one of them, even if you wear glasses.

Electronic Screens Cause Vision Loss

Just like people once thought that TV screens could cause damage to eyes, folks have heard lots of rumors and myths about computer, tablet and phone screens causing vision issues. The reality is there are other factors involved with this problem, not just looking at blue light.

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Electronic screens themselves don’t cause vision loss, but staring at them constantly can cause eye dryness and eyestrain. To help with this issue, try anti-glare computer lenses and lubricating eye drops, take lots of breaks and, as silly as it sounds, don’t forget to blink.

You Can’t Do Anything to Improve Your Vision

Okay, so if you can’t eat carrots and quit your screen habit to combat vision loss and see better, then, apparently, there’s just nothing you can do to prevent this issue. Right? Not at all. In fact, there are definite ways you can prevent eyesight deterioration.

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First, visit your eye doctor often, report any changes in your vision, wear protective lenses — sunglasses, safety goggles, etc. — and follow all instructions given to you by your doctor for your prescriptions. Early detection is your best weapon against vision loss and worsening any damage that has already been done.

Eye Exercises Can Prevent and Fix Vision Loss

If you're a gym-goer, you know that exercises to work the muscles improve your body strength and your overall health. So, it makes sense that eye exercises would do the same thing for your vision. For a century, the Bates method program was hailed as the standard to use for this purpose.

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Research has shown, however, that the Bates method and its exercises can actually be damaging to your eyes. There are programs that can specifically help with eye damage, brain damage and other conditions that are affected by vision, but they should only be used under a doctor’s care.

If You Cross Your Eyes, They Will Stay Like That

You’ve definitely heard this one before: If you cross your eyes, they will stay like that. Little kids have believed this "Mom threat" for decades, maybe centuries. And why not? If you hold your eyes that way for a while, they do kind of hurt.

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In truth, although your eye muscles allow you to move them in many directions, they aren’t forced to stay in those positions permanently because you use those muscles. Crossed eyes that "stick" in a certain position are the result of disease, uncorrected vision or muscle or nerve damage — not goofing off.

Vision Problems Can Cause Learning Disabilities

Several issues can arise if your child has difficulty with their vision. These challenges, however, are different from learning disabilities. There are parallels between vision issues and learning disabilities, including difficulty reading, trouble writing and the inability to see the board from the back of the classroom, but they are not the same thing.

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Due to these similarities, it's important to take your child for regular eye exams, and if problems persist, talk to a learning specialist. The earlier any of your child’s vision or learning disorders are discovered, the sooner they can be corrected.

Only Males Can Be Color Blind

The myth about men being the only ones who can be color blind is probably due to old sexist views that men weren’t interested in things like fashion, flowers and aesthetics. Well, that and that fact that men are more prone to be color blind than women. An estimated one in 10 males is color blind to some degree.

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However, it’s not just males who have this vision problem. Most folks who are color blind are born with either partial or complete lack of cones in the retina that help people distinguish the colors red, green and blue from other colors.

People Who Are Color Blind Only See Black and White

Speaking of color blindness, some people also falsely believe that folks who are color blind cannot see any color at all — just shades of black, white and gray. A certain form of color blindness does produce this total lack of color, but it’s a very uncommon condition.

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Instead, most folks who experience color blindness can see some colors. They usually have difficulty distinguishing between greens, reds and possibly blues. This partial color blindness can affect many things, but it isn’t always a total hindrance, even in the visual arts. There are adaptations that must be made, like labeling things "grass" for green.

Squinting a Lot Can Damage Your Vision

One common myth is the idea that if someone squints too much it will cause damage to the eye and loss of vision. However, research has shown that the only real downside to squinting is that it contributes to wrinkles around the eye, commonly called crow’s feet.

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However, it’s important to pay attention to your children if they are squinting a lot. An abundance of squinting in children may be a sign of an underlying problem. Even if your children already have glasses, excessive squinting could mean they need a new eyeglass prescription.

A Cataract Has to Fully "Ripen" Before It Can Be Removed

If you take to the internet, a lot of confusion and misinformation exists about cataracts and surgery. A common myth is that a cataract must be endured until it has reached a certain level of growth on the lens, known as "ripening."

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Thanks to advances in modern medicine, it is now possible for a cataract to be removed as soon as there is any loss of vision. As soon as it becomes difficult to read street signs or the fine print on contracts, you can talk to a doctor about having the lens removed and replaced.

People Who Need Corrective Lenses Can Damage Their Eyes Reading Fine Print

It's common for people to believe that those who need to wear corrective glasses can cause further damage to their eyes if they try to read small text like the fine print on contracts and advertisements without corrective lenses. Although the task may be extremely difficult if you need glasses, focusing on the fine details will not wear out your eyes and make them any worse.

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The worst consequence of reading small text is a nasty case of eyestrain and a headache. If you experience a lot of eyestrain, the best cure is to rest the eyes periodically and try looking off into the distance to help your eyes refocus.

The Wrong Prescription Hurts Your Eyes

One of the most common myths that most of us have heard is that if you wear glasses with the wrong prescription, it will cause both pain and long-term eye damage. The symptoms of wearing the wrong eyeglass prescription include eyestrain, which causes blurry vision and headaches.

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While there are problems that can arise from wearing the wrong prescription, the solution to fixing those problems is simply to remove the incorrect glasses. It won’t cause any permanent damage. It's important to have regular eye exams, so you always have the most current prescription to fit your needs.

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