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True or False? Five Common Myths About Your Eyes

There are loads of myths relating to eyes and eyesight, these five are the most commonly encountered in the consulting room.

Eating carrots is good for your eyes

This is for the most part true. Carrots contain Carotenoid Pigments that are beneficial in reducing the risk of certain cancers and eye disease such as Macular Degeneration. One particular carotenoid, Beta-Carotene, is converted to Vitamin A. While this is a requirement for good eye health, it’s important to know that it is a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic in high doses. Fortunately eating large quantities of carrots is unlikely to give you a Vitamin A overdose because Beta-Carotene is not converted rapidly enough to toxic levels. In any event, consuming large amounts is also not likely to be any more beneficial than a balanced healthy diet. It’s good to know that Carotenoids can also be found in many other intensely coloured fruits and vegetables, which are therefore also good for your eyes.

Wearing glasses will weaken or damage your eyes

There is some debate amongst academics and clinicians about how strong to make a pair of glasses for a young child going through their developmental period, however, for the general population this myth is incorrect. Glasses or contact lenses correct refractive errors (this means that glasses will bend the light entering the eye so that it falls in sharp focus on the sensitive retina). Just like the film in an old camera, a poorly focused image will result in a blurry photo. Similarly, a sharply focused image on the retina will be perceived as clear by your brain (providing there is no eye disease present). Choosing not to wear glasses will simply just render your world blurry and will have no other effect. So, wearing your glasses, not wearing your glasses, or wearing someone else’s glasses (however this option might give you a headache), will not ruin your eye health or sight.

Staring at the sun can damage your eye sight

This is absolutely true, and we have personally seen in our clinics permanent damage sustained to the retina from Solar Eclipse viewing. The sun’s radiation intensity varies throughout the day, so the amount of time required to damage the retina will also vary, but guessing how long that might be is fraught with danger. There is also a common belief that viewing the sun with sunglasses or filters is safe, however this is also a myth, as filters cause the pupils to dilate, allowing even more of the sun’s harmful radiation to enter the eye. Most sunglasses are not designed to filter out harmful radiant wavelengths responsible for this type of damage, thus providing nothing more than a false sense of security. When purchasing sunglasses always look for the Australian Standards sticker stating the level of UV protection. There are several levels of protection offered and this will be indicated on the sticker or tag. This is your assurance that the sunglasses are compliant with the laws and will protect you from the sun’s harmful rays, in the conditions that you wish to wear them.

Sitting too close to the TV and computer screen damages your eyes

There is little truth to this, however staring at screens can cause symptoms of eye strain and discomfort that diminish with ceasing of the activity. The causes of these symptoms include excessive prolonged focusing, inappropriate screen brightness and contrast, and eye dryness due to staring with a reduced blink frequency. There is also no evidence to support the theory that radiation emitted from screens, including light from the blue spectrum, is at a high enough intensity to cause any form of eye damage.

Crossing your eyes can cause them to be permanently cross-eyed

The causes of permanently “turned” eyes are many and include uncorrected refractive errors (particularly “long-sightedness”), disease (eg. Thyroid condition), head trauma causing damage to the cranial nerves, and brain compression from an aneurysm or tumour. In a normal healthy person, the extra-ocular muscles function normally and allow for a variety of eye gaze positions, including extreme convergence (going “cross-eyed”), that are completely reversible. These muscles do not spasm into a permanent position, and are commanded back into position by the cranial nerves that communicate to them. If you have any worries about your eye health then consult with your optometrist.

Why Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive To Light?

Did you know that blue eyes don’t contain any blue pigment? They appear blue due to how the light reacts with the structures of the iris.

In fact, the top layer of a blue iris doesn’t contain any pigment at all. This lack of pigment is the reason that blue-eyed people may be more sensitive to bright light and have a greater need to wear sunglasses than their brown-eyed counterparts.

Why Do Your Eyes Need Sun Protection?

Eyes of all colours need shielding from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV light can contribute to the formation of short-term and long-term eye conditions such as corneal sunburn and macular degeneration.

That’s why it’s so important to choose high-quality sunwear with 100% UV blocking lenses, and to throw on a sun hat for an added layer of protection.

UV protection is important for individuals of all ages—especially children—who are more susceptible than adults to the sun’s harmful rays, and tend to spend more time outdoors. It is estimated that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18.

Why are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light?

Lighter coloured eyes like blue, hazel and green have less of a pigment called ‘melanin’ than brown eyes do.

Melanin helps protect the retina from UV damage and blue light, putting those with blue eyes at a higher risk of developing UV-related eye damage.

If you have blue eyes, you may have experienced this first-hand. Bright light may be uncomfortable or you may want to reach for your shades as soon as you leave the house on a sunny day.

That’s why optometrists urge blue-eyed patients to be particularly vigilant about UV protection, so as to mitigate their chances of developing eye disease and other complications.

How We Can Help

Whether you have blue eyes or not, sunglasses are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy for a lifetime.

At Kosmac & Clemens Optometrists, we’ll be happy to advise on the perfect high-quality and protective pair of sunglasses to suit your needs and personal style.

To learn more about the eye care services we offer or to schedule an eye test, contact Kosmac & Clemens Optometrists in Bendigo today!

Q&A:

#1: Should I wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny outside?

Yes! You should wear your sunglasses whenever outdoors during the day, even on an overcast, winter day. UV light can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like car windows and pavement.

#2: What type of sunglasses are the most suitable for blue eyes?

The most protective sunglasses are wraparound sunglasses that protect the eyes from every angle. You can also opt for photochromic lenses, which offer total UV protection but only become tinted when exposed to outdoor sunlight, and turn clear when you come indoors again. Your optometrist can help you choose the best lens and frame options for your needs and lifestyle.