Five False Eye Care Beliefs

When I was a kid I was told some things that were just not true.  It was usually well intentioned but ultimately it was also completely false.  For example, I was told over and over that I had to wait at least 30 minutes after I ate before I could go back into the pool and swim.  It was commonly believed and we were gravely warned that we would certainly drown if we went back in the water any sooner.  

We were also told a non-truth on the insufferably hot and humid days before air-conditioning.  On those occasions we were told that we had to stay back from any fan that was producing a strong and refreshing breeze.  Being up close where you might experience some relief would make you sick with a cold.  I’m sure they had good reasons for telling us these things but that was still not true.

So, here are five items about eyes and eye care that have been generally held to be true but are absolutely false.  

First.  Wearing eyeglasses makes a person’s eyes worse.  Which is to say, the amount or power of a person’s prescription will increase solely because they are wearing glasses.  Not true.  The amount of a person’s prescription is the result of the strength of the lens in the eye and the cornea in the front of the eye and how that strength or power corresponds to the depth of the eye.  If the power of the cornea and lens together is too strong or the eyeball is too long, the imaged formed by the eye will be in front of the retina.  This person would be myopic or ‘nearsighted’ and need a negative correction.  If the lens and cornea are not strong enough or the depth of the eyeball is too short, the focus of the eye would be behind the eye.  This would result in hypermetropia or ‘farsighted’ and the patient would need a positive correction.  In either case, the patient would have an out of focus image on their retina and perceive the world as blurry.   Wearing eyeglasses of any prescription strength simply cannot change the depth of the eye, the power of the lens in the eye or the curvature of the front of the eye.

Second.   Watching a lot of television, spending tons of time on the computer, or voraciously reading books will harm your eyes and make them worse.  This is also false and for essentially the same reason as in the previous paragraph.  Reading a lot or using the focusing system in your eyes a lot to do the activities you enjoy will not change the shape of your eyes.  And therefore, those activities will not make a person need a stronger or weaker prescription.  It sometimes seems as if we need to have a villain that we can blame for the prescription changes that inevitably occur.  It’s just not that that simple.  We all use our eyes constantly to see during our waking hours.  That a certain select group of those activities and usually the ones we enjoy cause our eyes to change is just not true.

Third.   If you are diabetic, you should not see an optometrist for your eye care.  This is completely and totally false.  For the most part this has been the ongoing drumbeat for well-intentioned general practitioners for as long as I can remember.  The doctors that say this do not know what optometrists do.   Optometrists are the primary eye care experts that diagnose and manage new diabetic patients on a daily basis.  We detect many undiagnosed diabetics because of their dramatic vision fluctuations that occur when their blood sugar is uncontrolled.  Diabetics must have a retinal examination through a dilated pupil every year.  If bleeding is detected, and blood in the retina is easy to see, the patient needs to be treated.  Optometrists are very good at managing these patients.   Whenever I see any diabetic patient, if they allow me to dilate their eyes, I will send a report to their physician on the condition of their eyes and their retinas.  We do this almost daily.

Fourth.  In order to fit or sell eyeglasses one must be highly trained, certified and licensed.  This would seem logical as we live in a fairly regulated society.  After all eyeglasses are like medicine for your eyes.  The doctors that prescribe the glasses are required to have years of education and are licensed.   Surely the people that make eyeglasses should be educated, trained and licensed.  Amazingly this is also not true.  There are opticians who are highly trained in optics and the art of making eyeglasses.  Optometrists must pass a number of courses on optics and lenses.  But in Illinois and many many other places, no requirements exist for the people who make and sell eyeglasses what so ever.  You do not need to be an optician.  You don’t need to be an optometrist.  You don’t need to pass an exam.  You don’t need to have any training what so ever.  All you need to do is put out an open for business sign.   Consider this next time you see eyeglasses that are being sold at a ‘too good to be true’ price.

Number Five.    Cleaning gas permeable or hard contact lenses in the morning is just as good as cleaning them in the evening after removal.  Again, not true.  Cleaning your lenses at night helps to remove the proteins from your tears that coat the contacts during a day’s wear.  This happens with both soft and firm contacts.  Waiting until the morning allows the proteins to harden and become fixed to the contact lens surfaces.  The proteins, which become fixed to the contact lenses, will deteriorate the optics and reduce the comfort of the lenses.  This is a big reason why lenses wear out and new lenses feel so much better.  In addition, cleaning firm contact lenses in the morning scrubs off the wetting agent in the soaking solution.  The wetting agent makes the water repellent silicone in the contact lens water loving or ‘hydrophilic’.  Leaving the soaking solution on the lenses makes the vision better and lenses much more comfortable when they are first placed on the eyes.