Debunking the most common eye myths

Ideas about how our eyes work have undergone many changes throughout history.

In ancient Greece, for example, Plato’s “emission theory” suggested that we emit beams of light from our eyes in order to illuminate and see objects.

Another Greek, Empedocles, believed that Aphrodite made the human eye out of the four elements — fire, air, earth, and water.  She then made sight possible by lighting the fire in the eye and allowing it to shine out.

In most parts of the world, such ideas have long been lost to the history books. But to this day, the eye remains one of the most fascinating and complex mysteries in the known universe. This means there’s a tonne of ideas, myths, theories, and general noise about them out there. Some much more accurate, and some much more bizarre, than others.

Here we’re going to tackle such myths, and in doing so, try to get a few things straight about the miracle that is our vision.

Myth 1: Eating carrots is good for seeing at night

In World War II, the Allies, (later called the United Nations) devised a cunning idea to stop the Germans learning about the radar technology that helped the RAF shoot down enemy bombers at night.

The idea was to spread the lie that their pilots could see so well in the dark because they ate a lot of carrots. During the war, advertisements touted the benefits of carrots for night vision, including one that said, “Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout.”

Carrots contain some lutein which might be good for the retina. They’re also rich in beta carotene (Vitamin A) which helps promote good eye health. But the evidence is out on how much they will actually improve your vision. All that said, this myth still makes a great way to convince your kids to eat their veggies.

Myth 2: All babies are born with blue eyes

There are many myths about babies and their eyesight. One of them is that each one is born with blue eyes.

If you’re a midwife, you’ll know that this myth has some truth to it. When babies are born, their eyes can sometimes appear blue as the melanin is still developing. Within about 12 months, however, their cells begin to produce melanin which builds up in the iris and often causes their eyes to change colour.

Another common baby eye myth is that when they’re born, their eyes are already their full adult size. Generally, babies are born with eyes approximately two-thirds of their full size. They then continue to grow after birth, typically in two phases: their first few years and puberty.

Myth 3: Blue-eyed people share a common ancestor

Similar to the baby myth, there is one floating around that everyone in the world who has blue eyes has a common ancestor.

This myth is actually true. Originally, everyone in the world by default had brown eyes. However, around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, when there was a rapid expansion of the population in Europe due to the spread of agriculture from the Middle East, the first blue-eyed person was born as a result of a genetic mutation.

According to a 2008 study, that mutation of the OCA2 gene essentially “turned off the ability to produce brown eyes” and disrupted melanin production in the iris to turn it to blue.

Myth 4: If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way

Your eye muscles allow you to move your eyes in all directions. No matter what your mother told you, looking left or right, up or down, won’t force them to remain in those positions, just as crossing the eyes won’t force them to stay that way. However, if you do notice an eye that is crossing for the first time, it is recommended to see your eye doctor to determine the cause as this can be due to poor vision, undetected disease or blood vessel or nerve damage.

Myth 5: Using computers can damage your eyes

This is probably the most modern eye myth on our list. With so many of us using screens and computers today, it’s also one of the most widely believed.

To set the record straight, looking at a screen for long periods of time is not great for your eyes — it can lead to eyestrain, tired eyes, and dry eyes. But looking at a screen will not damage your eyes and will in itself not worsen your vision.

It’s important to adopt good habits to look after your vision while using screens. For example, by resting your eyes every 20 minutes with the 20-20-20 technique. You can also blink regularly and use lubricated drops to keep your eyes feeling comfortable.

Myth 6: Your eyesight will get worse when you start wearing glasses or contacts

Similar to the above myth, many people believe that once they start wearing glasses or contact lenses, their vision and eye health will gradually deteriorate.

Your eyes do get used to glasses or contacts as the brain prefers the clearer image to your uncorrected vision. But wearing glasses or contacts does not change the physiology of the eye or lead to dependency on their use.

Myth 7: Our vision is under our voluntary control

You would think that where your eyes look is completely under your conscious control. But, there are six extraocular muscles around the eye and many of the motions they make are involuntary. For example, It is the extraocular muscles that cause our eyes to flick to one side when we notice a sudden threat coming towards us.

Myth 8: You only need to wear sunglasses abroad and in sunlight

This is a myth of the more practical kind which, and one of the more important if you want to maintain clear, long-lasting vision.

UV light is believed to be a strong factor in the onset of age-related macular degeneration and cataract formation. It is also anywhere the sun is, and so, even on cloudy days in the UK, if you are outside, you are being exposed to UV radiation.

Thankfully a simple pair of sunglasses can block harmful levels of UV light from entering the eye. You can learn how to pick a quality pair of sunglasses.

Myth 9: Eye make up doesn’t have a use-by date

If you want to look after your vision, a good place to start is by being careful about what you put on or near your eyes. For example, contact lenses may be a great short-term solution to clear vision, but they can also increase your chances of contracting a sight-threatening eye infection.

You generally don’t have to worry about such drastic consequences from wearing make-up. However, many people are unaware that they are putting their eyes at risk every day by wearing make-up that is long past its shelf life.

All make-up has a shelf life, i.e. the time within which it is safe or recommended to use after opening. You can find it on the packaging.

The exact periods vary across products and brands. For instance, mascara and liquid eyeliner typically last around four months, powder eye shadow around 12 months, liquid foundation and creamy eye shadow last around six months, and others like pencil eyeliner, powder blusher/bronzer, and lip liner, around two years.

Myth 10: Losing vision is an inevitable part of ageing

Many people believe that once a certain age comes, their vision is destined to get worse and worse until they have to succumb to reading glasses.

This gradual decline in near distance vision as we age is known as presbyopia. For a long time, presbyopia has been one vision problem that vision correction has been unable to treat. However, that has all changed in recent years with the introduction of PRESBYOND Laser Blended Vision.

Today, presbyopia is not an inevitability that always ends in reading glasses. PRESBYOND can allow you to regain youthful vision for many years, if not forever.