Vision Urban Legends
The Truth Behind Some Common and Some Not-So-Common Eye Myths
Even as youngsters, many of us had a hard time believing mom when she warned us, "If you keep crossing your eyes like that, they might stay that way for good!" Of course, even if we didn't believe it, we knew little enough about the truth that we always had mom's warning in the back of our minds whenever we made those "funny faces" again. Truth is that crossed eyes are most often the result of a congenital condition called strabismus. Regardless, the power of myth can be impressive, especially to children, and especially with something as vital as vision. Now that we're all grown up, let's get some of these vision myths cleared up, shall we?
Children sitting too close to the television seems to be another sore spot for concerned parents, who often worry that continued close-watching can cause long-term vision problems. Although this CAN cause eye fatigue, there is no danger to the eyes or overall vision, no matter how close kids sit to the screen. The same goes for people who use computers for several hours a day. Long-term eye damage is not a possibility, but it always helps to take short breaks from staring at the video monitor to prevent eye strain. Looking at objects across the room every fifteen minutes or so usually does the trick.
The controversial television rears its ugly head again with our next myth, but it has company this time. Both watching TV in the dark and reading in dim light have gained nasty reputations for causing vision damage if done consistently. Dark/light contrast or glare from a TV screen can both cause eye strain, but again, there is no need to worry about long-term vision problems as a result.
Carrots have gained such a "good for your eyes" reputation that it has become nearly impossible to bite into the orange veggie without thinking about your eyesight improving! Before you order a crate of carrots to improve your vision, know that while they are rich in Vitamin A, only a small amount of the vitamin is necessary for maintaining good eyesight. If you have a Vitamin A deficiency, carrots and other sources of Vitamin A could contribute to seeing better in dim light, but that is about the extent of the link. Actually, an overabundance of Vitamin A can cause blurred vision (among other ailments) in some cases!
Bottom line: If you have vision problems, glasses or contacts will be of far more value to you than consuming mass quantities of carrots.
One should hesitate to even mention the age-old "home remedy" of putting a steak on a black eye to stop swelling. Of course, a cool steak does nothing a fresh ice pack can't do much more effectively, and at far less expense.
There are also vision facts that some could believe to be myths that actually are true. One of the more important ones is the fact that staring directly into a solar eclipse CAN cause severe vision damage, and quickly. The direct light from the sun could render you blind in under a minute, in fact. Don't get burned by believing that staring up at the sun on a regular summer day is harmless as long as you are wearing dark glasses or squinting. The truth is, the sun's ultra-violet light can still do damage to your retinas, lenses or corneas in these cases.
One of the more dangerous vision myths is that glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in America, is a disease that effects only the elderly. This is far from the truth, as glaucoma has several variations, few detectable symptoms, and varying risk levels depending on race, family history, or medical condition. Glaucoma - a condition relating to lack of fluid drainage in the eyes - is considered a thief of a disease that, with little advance warning, tends to sneak in and steal the vision from those who suffer from it. That is why early detection and treatment is so important, and undergoing simple eye pressure tests (usually common in a basic eye exam) every two years has been found to be the most effective method of preventing possible permanent vision damage from glaucoma.
No matter the myth or the reality, always consult your eye doctor with any questions you might have about your eyes, or any vision-related "legends" about which you are unsure. Don't worry that your inquiry might sound ridiculous. It is far less embarrassing to ask a simple question than to return to your doctor's office later with an eye problem brought about by believing erroneous information. Or to arrive for an eye appointment wearing a steak on your face.