Mind & Body

7 Myths About Your Vision, Debunked

Human eyes are surprisingly complex organs. They're like ultra-powerful cameras — more than 40x as powerful as an iPhone camera, by one estimate — but they also go briefly blind thousands of times a day, and they're easily bamboozled by optical illusions. (Let's not even get into the subtleties of blinking.) It's no wonder there's some confusion about how our eyes work, but we're here to set you straight.

MYTH: Eating carrots will give you ultra-sharp vision.

This myth has its roots in propaganda. During WWII, the British Air Force gunned down German planes by night because ... British pilots ate so many carrots? That's what the British Ministry of Food alleged at the time, at least. Now, though, it's clear they were just stoking demand for a locally grown veggie. British pilots really tracked enemies by night with radar technology.

Carrots do contain beta-carotene, though, which helps our bodies produce vitamin A. This vitamin is inarguably important to human vision; people have gone blind without it. More beta-carotene isn't always better, though — once you have enough to keep your vision healthy, your body stops turning it into vitamin A. And anyway, foods besides carrots, like sweet potato and kale, can also help you hit your vitamin A quota.

MYTH: Reading in dim light will ruin your eyesight.

False. It won't actually hurt your eyesight over the long haul. It will feel uncomfortable, though, because reading in poor light forces your eyes to do extra work and tires them out more quickly than in good light. For a quick fix, try a reading light. Plenty of them clip right onto your book! Unobtrusive and, if you rock it with confidence, stylish.

MYTH: Corrective lenses weaken your eyes.

Nope! If anything, corrective lenses strengthen your eyes by helping them see.

The logic behind this myth is that like a child using training wheels on a bike, your eyes can grow "dependent" on corrective lenses so they need to "rest" between bouts of clear vision. It's true that many people's eyes worsen over time, but that's a natural (and possibly reversible!) effect of aging. It's definitely not a sneaky side effect of your glasses.

Related Video: 10 Amazing Facts About the Human Body

MYTH: Staring at a screen all day makes your eyesight worse.

This is sort of like reading in dim light. It doesn't cause long-term damage to your vision, but staring at a computer screen for too long can cause short-term discomfort. In fact, it does so often, doctors have come up with a name for it: computer vision syndrome. Often, the problem stems from dry eyes — you blink less when looking at computers — or tired eyes, which can result from a flickering or reflective monitor. These issues can be treated with eye drops and monitor adjustments.

Another helpful trick: after every hour or two of computer work, look at something far away for a few moments. It gives your eyes a break.

MYTH: Blind people can't see anything.

Some blind people have eyes that are totally insensitive to light — it's true. However, blindness is a giant category. In the U.S., eyesight of 20/200 or less qualifies a person as legally blind. That means they can't comfortably read a book, and may walk with a white cane. But people in this legal category can still often perceive light and darkness, albeit fuzzily. Blindness means visual impairment, but it doesn't mean zero vision, necessarily. Plus, even some people who are completely blind can still react to danger and navigate their surroundings.

MYTH: Sitting too close to the TV will hurt your vision.

We sure have a lot of fears that media consumption will damage our eyes. Like reading and looking at computer screens, though, sitting close to a TV won't hurt your eyesight in the long term, at least not in 2019. In the 1950s and '60s, there was more to worry about; early TVs were, to put it bluntly, radioactive, and extensive up-close exposure to them could cause eye problems. Now, though, TVs have built-in shields, and you can watch from as close up or far away as you like.

MYTH: There's no way to prevent deterioration of your eyesight.

It's true that most 80-year-olds have dimmer vision than 20-year-olds. This isn't because aging dooms you to poor eyesight, though; often, the deterioration has its roots in treatable eye conditions, like cataracts. If you notice a decline in your vision, go to the eye doctor. This is especially true if you're experiencing symptoms like blurred vision, eye pain, or floaters — dots or shadows in your field of vision. Optometrists can often reverse problems or at least prevent further damage, especially when a condition gets caught early.

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Written by Mae Rice March 11, 2019

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