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Five myths about our eyes debunked

13 January 2016


How often have you heard, just like keeping a funny face when the wind changes, that if you keep your eyes crossed for too long they’ll end up staying there and you’ll never have good vision again? Of course this isn’t true, but there are other myths about eye conditions and health that might not be so clearly wrong, and here are five myths that may change the way you think about eyes.

  1. Sitting to close to the TV hurts your eyes

I can’t remember a time when I was young that my mother didn’t yell out at me to sit further back from the TV while I was watching a movie for the hundredth time, and when I asked her why she shot back ‘it will make your eyes go square’. Of course, it’s widely accepted that it’s impossible for your eyes to actually turn to a square shape, but it could have been the case that it did damage parts of your eyes from over-exposure.

That’s not the case however, and while TV in long intervals does cause you to feel droopy and tired, this can also be coupled with the lack of physical stimulation that you’re actually getting from sitting still for so long. There’s also no evidence that your close proximity to the screen will damage your eyes, and some scientists even suggest that children should sit closer to the TV due to the ability to focus on objects close to us being heightened. It is quite possible however that your parents really told you that so they could watch as well, and not have the back of their child’s head be the only thing they could see as they sat down for a movie for the night.


  1. Reading in dim light can damage your eyes

When Harry Potter was coming out, many kids crawled into bed right after dinner and devoured the pages of the newest book, reading right up until their parents turned out the lights with a warning ‘don’t keep reading by the lamp light, it’ll damage your eyes’.

However, this is a similar myth to the TV one – there’s no really evidence that your eyes can’t handle reading at low-light conditions, and while it might feel uncomfortable to strain your eyes, your pupils will respond and give you more exposure, something that happens naturally regardless. And while it might not be damaging to your eyes in the long term if you’re reading late at night, wouldn’t you rather be reading Harry Potter when you can remember it and aren’t skipping whole paragraphs?


  1. Squinting causes vision loss

This myth may have started a similar way to rubbing your eyes, or keeping your eyes crossed for too long, but it seems to have a foundation in the fact that these actions put strenuous pressure on your eyes for unnecessary amounts of time.

Squinting is actually a bodily response that is used to filter light or enhance focuses, and while a person is squinting their vision should actually improve. Although squinting doesn’t cause any kind of vision loss if done repetitively, squinting can actually be a fairly could indicator that someone’s vision is impaired, and may want to have their eyes checked to make sure that it’s not serious or vision-threatening.


  1. Vision loss is unavoidable as you age

While a lot of people will claim that losing your eyesight just comes with getting old, in reality many vision related problems that develop with age can be treated, and there are ways to avoid losing your sight as you age.

Presbyopia (near-vision loss) and cataracts can both be reversed and allow adults to see clearly again, if they are caught early enough in the degeneration of the eye. This is why it is important to have regular eye exams to make sure that reversible and permanent eye conditions are caught while they are still treatable – even glaucoma and macular degeneration can be treated, and in some cases when caught early enough can restore clear visions for the patient.


  1. Eating carrots boosts your eyesight

Perhaps the most infamous eye myth of all, many people will claim if you base your diet around that of a cartoon rabbit like Bugs Bunny your eyesight will become amazing. While it is true that Vitamin A is essential to maintain good eyesight, and carrots are rich in Vitamin A, only a small amount of the vitamin is actually needed, and there are many different sources that can give it to you.

This myth was actually created in World War II, when the British air-force first began implementing their new radar technology. Due to the fact that it was proving to be a decisive factor in the dogfights against the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, the British high command began issuing propaganda that suggested carrots could improve your eyesight – something that they were hoping would be passed off as the reason that the British pilots had suddenly upped their game in the battles in the sky.

The best example of this was fighter ace John Cunningham, who gained the nickname ‘Cat’s Eyes’ during the war. Being the first fighter pilot to use the Airborne Interception Radar, Cunningham went on to become one of the most dangerous night pilots of the war, racking up twenty kills, of which nineteen were in the dead of the night.

Regardless of the fact that carrots proved to be propaganda for the UK soldiers however, Vitamin A is still necessary for eye health, and that part of the trickery of the British army wasn’t trickery at all – just not the night vision giving carrots that turned the tide of the war.

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