LIVING WELL: Don’t lose sight of eye health

Don’t be blinded by common eye myths.

In considering one’s eye health, it’s important to look at all the facts and see through all the myths. So let’s start with the first myth – that there is nothing you can do to prevent vision loss. The real facts are that more than 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented; early detection of vision problems is crucial to preventing vision loss from many eye diseases (e.g. diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma); and regular eye exams can help save one’s sight.

This leads to myth number two – that eye exams are only necessary if you’re having problems. In fact, everyone should have regular eye exams whether there are any noticeable signs of vision problems or not.  Prevent Blindness America recommends that children should be tested at birth, again at 6 months, before entering school and then periodically throughout the school year. Adults should be tested every two years or more often, as directed by one’s physician. People with diabetes or an eye disease should receive a comprehensive eye exam annually.

Some myths have been perpetuated by our well-meaning parents (and perhaps continued by all who then became parents) who cautioned that sitting too close to the television would ruin our eyes; eating carrots would help our eyes; and reading in dim light would damage our eyes. The facts: sitting too close to the TV or spending too much time watching it or the hand-held electronics everyone is attached to now does not damage one’s eyes. In fact, young children have a greater ability to focus on objects closer to their eyes than adults do, so children sitting closer or holding reading material closer makes sense. Typically, the distance increases as one gets older. But again, regular eye exams for children can detect vision problems if ones exist. And while carrots are a great source of vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for sight, only a small amount of vitamin A is needed for good vision. Not to knock carrots, but a well-balanced diet with or without carrots provides adequate nutrition for vision. As for dim lights, eye strain most probably will result but no permanent damage will occur.

Eye strain also comes from reading fine print for too long but doing so will not damage or “wear out” one’s eyes. Reportedly, this is one of the most widely held myths but there is no evidence to support that reading too much or for too long will cause any damage or wear.

Contact lenses and glasses can correct vision enough to improve eyesight, but will not “cure” vision problems caused by physical injury or heredity (such as nearsightedness or myopia). Even though going without glasses will not damage one’s vision further, it’s important to keep your corrective lenses prescription current for a host of reasons, not the least of which is to be able to see well! Some people, particularly athletes, prefer contact lenses, which provide better peripheral vision than glasses. And contact lenses have come a long way to incorporate the need for correcting both nearsightedness and farsightedness for those who need lenses for distance as well as reading.

The fine print on all of this is to have your eyes examined regularly; report any visual problems immediately; and give your eyes the rest and support they need!

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