Doctors Explain the Truth Behind 11 Popular Eye Myths

Reading this -- no matter how large or small you've set the font size, no matter how dark the room is -- will not permanently damage your eyes.

And the number of carrots you eat isn't likely to affect how well you can read this either.

Many of us have gotten advice growing up about how we can protect our eyes, but much of this advice would be better off going the way of those thick frames you wore to school in the third grade.

VIDEO: Facts About Eye Health

You may know that crossing your eyes too many times won't get them stuck that way, but you may think that reading in a dimly lit room will put you on the path to early nearsightedness.

So, keep your eyes on your brightly lit monitor -- it won't do more than perhaps some temporary eyestrain.

With the launch of our OnCall+ Eye Health section, we're going to take a closer look at 11 of these eye myths, and dispel them -- or explain what truth there may be behind them.

Fact or Myth? Squinting a lot damages your vision.

Answer: Myth

Squinting may be a sign that you need glasses, but it isn't going to make your need for glasses any worse.

"You can squint all you want," said Dr. Jay Pepose, an ophthalmologist with the Pepose Vision Institute in St. Louis and an OnCall+ contributor.

"Squinting is an attempt to make the pupil smaller -- it lets in less light," said Dr. Richard Rosen, director of ophthalmology research at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. "By closing your lids together it further enhances your focus."

For this reason, squinting can help someone who might need glasses see better.

"Squinting suggests that you actually have a refractive error [where the eye cannot bend light correctly, resulting in blurry vision -- such as near- or farsightedness], and this is how someone can get around wearing glasses," said Dr. Kenneth Chang, a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

People who squint a lot aren't permanently damaging their vision, but there are some side effects:

"What it does, it gives you a headache sometimes because it [involves] contraction of the muscles of your face," said Rosen.

Fact or Myth? Reading in poor light or reading too much fine print will eventually harm your vision.

Answer: Myth

"It's like saying if you take a picture in poor light, then the camera is going to be damaged," said Rosen, who worked as a photographer before he went to medical school and became an ophthalmologist.

The camera analogy may also explain why vision becomes worse in the dark.

"In low light the pupil is enlarged, so whatever defects there are in the lens…are not corrected," said Rosen. "When it's bright, you have a much greater depth of focus."

So, more outside light can certainly help you see better. At the same time, though, your retina is not damaged by the high amount of light that is let in by an expanded pupil in the dark.

Similarly, having to focus on a smaller area is likely to cause strain on the eyes, but not lasting damage.

"Basically, it's getting light to the retina and getting it in focus," said Rosen.

Fact or Myth? Sitting too close to the TV or staring at a computer screen is bad for your eyes.

Answer: Myth Sitting too close to a TV or staring at a computer screen for too long will hurt your eyes -- but only temporarily.

Much of the problem can come from the screen, because people staring at them for long periods of time tend not to blink.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...