10 common 'myths' about your eyes

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Lucy Hill
Eye Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
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15 November 2018

1. If you cross your eyes too often, they’ll get stuck that way!

I’m sure we’re all too familiar with this cautionary tale. Parents and teachers love to hit out with this one, although I don’t remember this prophecy ever coming true when I was younger. That’s because this particular myth is, in fact, not true. Although you might get a slight headache if you have the time to try this one out, your eyes definitely won’t end up permanently crossed. In reality, crossed eyes are caused by nerve damage. 

2. Eating carrots will give you night-vision!

This one does have a ring of truth to it. While gorging on carrots won’t give you perfect night-vision, it will give your body plenty of beta-carotene, which is used to make vitamin A. This vitamin is important when it comes to protecting the cornea, which plays a role in focusing light into the eye. So, eating plenty of veggies high in beta-carotene (like carrots, spinach and tomatoes!) will help your eyes to convert light into brain signals, even in poor light.

3. Your eyes will pop out if you keep them open while sneezing!

Nope, wrong again. Although this gruesome tale was certainly entertaining (and slightly creepy!) when we were kids, it’s not a realistic worry. When you sneeze, your eyes close thanks to your natural reflexes. It may be difficult to sneeze with your eyes open, but if you do manage, there’s no need to worry that you’ll be left eyeless afterwards!

4. Sitting too close to the TV will give you square eyes!

Actually, sitting too close to the TV will not damage your eyes (or change their shape!). Plus, did you know that when it comes to watching the telly or reading, children are able to focus on close objects better than adults? They often hold books close or sit right in front of the TV, though this habit tends to change as they get older – unless they are short-sighted. However, while our eyesight won’t be affected, sitting too close to screens can cause eye strain and result in headaches. So it’s best avoided for us adults!

5. Your eyesight will get worse if you wear glasses!

It’s a common misconception that wearing your glasses or contacts too often will cause your eyesight to worsen. But that’s not how it works! You may feel like your eyes are becoming dependent on your glasses, but the truth is you’re just getting used to seeing things more clearly. Then you start to notice a difference when trying to read or watch TV without them! The same goes for trying on other people’s glasses – these won’t damage your eyes either, you simply won’t be able to see as clearly as you would when wearing the correct prescription.

6. I have 20/20 vision so my eyesight is perfect!

Sorry, this one isn’t true either! If you’ve been going around the houses bragging about your perfect 20/20 vision, then I’ve got news for you. There are lots of factors which contribute to ‘perfect’ vision, including peripheral awareness, eye-coordination, depth perception and focusing ability. To have 20/20 vision simply means that your central vision is pretty good, but the rest is still up for debate!

7. Your eyes stay the same size and never grow!

Oops, wrong again! No, it’s not true that your eyes will be the same size from birth all the way through to adulthood. Your eyes grow rapidly in the womb and up until the age of 3 months. There is a bit of debate about the age at which your eyes stop growing, but it is generally thought that your eyes reach their full size before puberty. It is estimated that your eyes start out at around 18mm in diameter at birth, and reach around 25mm at their full size.

8. Using artificial sweeteners makes your eyes light-sensitive!

True! Your eyes can be sensitive to light if you’re on certain medications such as oral contraceptives or antibiotics – but artificial sweeteners can also cause light-sensitivity! This is another reason why many foods advertised as low-calorie or diet-friendly alternatives might not be all that good for you. These can be full of artificial sweeteners and can make your eyes extra sensitive!

9. Reading in dim light will make your vision worse!

This is another common myth that isn’t strictly true. Reading in the dark won’t make your vision any worse than it already is! However, if you spend a long time reading in dim light, it can cause eye strain and result in headaches. So, although your eyes may be tired out more quickly than if you were reading with plenty of good lighting, it won’t cause any long-lasting damage.

10. Looking into the sun will damage your eyes!

Our tenth and final ‘myth’ is, of course, true. You should never look directly into the sun, even if you have sunglasses on. Short-term, this can distort your vision as well as give you a headache. However, long-term effects could be much worse: ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause permanent damage to your retina and to the cells in the cornea. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun has been linked to issues such as macular degeneration, cataracts and cancer.1 So, no matter the time of year or the weather conditions, don’t look into the sun! 

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sun

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