13 Health Myths About Your Eyes You Need to Stop Believing
Don't let these false "facts" cloud your judgment when it comes to your eye health.
The average person hears countless myths about their health on a daily basis, but there are few parts of the human body subject to as much misinformation as the eyes. From what food best promotes optimal vision to the effectiveness of eye drops, we've all heard plenty of eye health myths—now it's time to separate fact from fiction. With the help of top ophthalmologists, optometrists, and eye surgeons, we're debunking the most common myths about your vision, so you can start seeing things a little more clearly.
If you cross your eyes, they'll get stuck that way.
While crossing your eyes may give you a headache, you don't have to worry about them permanently being stuck in this position.
Crossing your eyes for fun "will not keep them stuck that way," says Benjamin Bert, MD, an ophthalmologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Sitting too close to the TV will permanently damage your vision.
Worried that your habit of sitting close to the TV is the reason for your declining vision?
"For adults, sitting too close to the TV can certainly cause eye strain, but it won't hurt the eyes more than that," Bert says.
Reading things at a closer distance is easier on your eyes.
You may have heard that squinting to read something that's far away can cause damage to your vision, but for children, focusing on objects too close to them may be even worse.
"Recent studies have shown that lots of near work—reading, computer, tablet, etc.—may increase myopia or nearsightedness in kids," Bert says. Over time, this can potentially thin the retina and result in vision loss.
Carrots are the best food for your vision.
While, for many healthy adults, carrots can be a tasty way to load up on essential vitamins and nutrients, they're not the magic bullet for good vision you may have once believed they were.
Christopher Zoumalan, MD, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified oculoplastic surgeon, says that while the beta-carotene in carrots, when converted to vitamin A in your body, can help protect your vision, so can plenty of other foods you may already be eating, like "milk, cheese, egg yolk, and liver."
You can safely look at the sun when it's cloudy.
Think you can safely gaze at the sky when it's slightly obscured by clouds? Think again.
Even if it doesn't appear particularly bright to you, "the effects of the harmful invisible UV rays can still result in damage," as well as headaches and temporary vision loss, Zoumalan says.
Anti-redness drops are the solution to stinging eyes.
While certain eye drops may reduce the redness in your eyes, they won't necessarily take away the discomfort you feel.
"Dry eyes often result from [the] evaporation of our tears," says optometrist Leigh Plowman. "They become saltier, leading to redness and inflammation," which drops specifically formulated to only reduce redness won't fix. Plowman also notes that you can build a dependency on these drops over time, leading to even greater redness and discomfort when you stop using them.
Eye makeup is safe for your eyes.
If your eye makeup is safe to use near your eyes, it's probably no big deal if you get a little liner or mascara in your eyes, right? Well, not exactly.
Any makeup—even products that are supposed to be used around your eyes—can leave residue that mixes with "your normal tears and clog[s] up the oil glands," says Plowman, who recommends removing all traces of eye makeup at night and giving your eyes a break from your beauty routine whenever possible.
Flushing your eyes out with water will help soothe or cleanse them.
While splashing a little water into your dry, irritated eyes may make them feel better temporarily, it can cause even bigger problems in the future.
Plowman notes that there are 2,000 distinct components to human tears that all serve a specific purpose. "Washing your eyes with water can upset this balance," and the amoeba and bacteria in tap water can set you up for a serious infection.
You can safely rub your eyes as long as it doesn't hurt to do so.
It may feel good to rub your eyes, but don't make a habit of doing so if you want your vision to remain intact.
"Rubbing your eyes can lead to thinning of the cornea at the front of the eyes, [which] may lead to keratoconus," a condition in which the cornea forms a cone-like shape and can lead to vision loss, Plowman says. Rubbing your eyes can also cause dryness and may even be a precursor to glaucoma.
Glasses and contacts make your eyesight worse over time.
While you may notice a stark difference between what you see with your glasses on and off, that doesn't mean your glasses are actually causing your vision to change.
"Whether you wear contact lenses or glasses, neither are bad for your eyes," says Plowman, who notes that what seems to be a change in your vision is more likely related to you getting used to seeing things more clearly as you wear your glasses or contacts more often, not an actual decline in your ability to see.
Lasik surgery can fix any vision problem.
While the vision-correcting procedure may be life-changing solution for some people, it's not a cure-all for every type of vision-related problem.
"Lasik is not suitable for people with a thin cornea or keratoconus [and] it doesn't fix corneal scarring," Plowman says. It's also ineffective when it comes to treating conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, he says.
Reading in a dark room is fine for your eyes.
When you were a kid, your parents' concern about you reading under the covers at night might have been more about your vision health than you staying up too late.
"Reading in the dark does strain the focusing or accommodative system and can cause a person to get near-sighted," says developmental optometrist Julie Steinhauer, founder of Vision For Life in Glen Carbon, Illinois, who notes that reading in the dark can also cause headaches and discomfort from eye strain.
Wearing the wrong prescription isn't a big deal.
If you're not making a yearly appointment with your eye doctor, you could be seriously damaging your vision—especially if you're still wearing an old prescription.
"Wearing the wrong prescription means that your eyes have to work harder together as a team in order to process what they are seeing," Steinhauer says. Doing so, she says, can also cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and eventually, the degradation of your eyesight.