According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, approximately 1,500,000 Canadians identify themselves as having sight loss. Over 5,500,000 more Canadians suffer from an eye disease that may cause sight loss. The four most common causes of blindness in Canada are cataracts, macular degeneration due to age, glaucoma and diabetes-related retinopathy.
Given those startling and serious statistics, it’s essential that families, physicians, optometrists and every eye specialist in Calgary have ongoing conversations about eye health. Even more important, though, is that those conversations not be littered with myths — silly or serious. Here are a few myths about eyes and eyesight that are out there, and the straight facts about the issues.
A newborn’s eyes certainly seem disproportionately large compared at birth, but they are not actually the same size of a fully grown adult’s eyes. A newborn’s eyes are only approximately one-third the size of an adult’s eyes. They’ll continue to grow throughout infancy and even in adolescence. Ironically, it is the growth of a child’s eyes that can contribute to the worsening of some vision issues such as myopia, which often worsens throughout growth until approximately the age of 20 when growth is complete.
Wearing glasses will only improve your vision. In fact, only about one-fifth of the factors affecting refractive vision errors are related to behaviour and environment such as performing “near vision tasks” too often and too long or not getting enough exposure to natural daylight. The significant majority of factors that affect refractive vision errors — in the order of 80% — are actually genetically determined.
We’re not saying that you should do it, because it might give you a headache. Thankfully, though, modern flat-screen televisions emit little to no ultraviolet radiation that could harm your eyes. Having said that, they do emit lots of blue light. That blue light can interfere with sleeping patterns. That’s one reason that doctors of all types recommend that people refrain from “screen-time” for at least a half-hour before laying down for bed.
Our eyes contain two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. The cones that help us to see colour require more light than the rods. Rods work at even very low levels of light. In fact, they’re heavily relied on for our vision at night time. Those rods need just a few photons (tiny elements) of light to be activated and produce what the brain interprets as vision. Reading in dim light will require you to rely on those rods, but won’t damage your eyes. You may experience some eye tiredness, though.
Vitamin A is essential to your eyesight, but your body only needs small amounts of it that can be found in a lot of different sources — leafy greens, bright vegetables, dairy products, fish and, yes, carrots. Eating those foods will help you to maintain your eyesight, but won’t improve your eyesight or eliminate the need for vision correction. Here’s a “pro tip” when it comes to eating foods with Vitamin A: If you eat those foods together with fat, your body will be able to better absorb those vitamins.
There are six muscles in each of your eye sockets that help you to move and rotate your eye in every direction. You can even use those muscles to intentionally cross your eyes, but those same muscles will allow you to move your eyes back into their natural position. Your eyes won’t get stuck in any particular position — crossed or otherwise. Strabismus — the technical term for eyes that don’t align properly — can be caused by disease, vision problems left uncorrected, muscle damage and nerve damage.
Whenever you have questions about your eyes or eyesight, don’t rely on myths or rumors. Instead, reach out to an eye specialist near you or eye surgeons in Calgary for advice and to understand your options for any treatment that is required.