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Vision Facts and Myths

Old wives' tales abound about the eyes. From watching TV to eating carrots, here's the lowdown on some vision facts and fiction.

Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for the eyes.

Fact: Although parents have been saying this ever since TVs first found their way into our homes, there's no evidence that plunking down right in front of the TV set damages someone's eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says that kids can actually focus up close without eyestrain better than adults, so they often develop the habit of sitting right in front of the television or holding reading material close to their eyes. However, sitting close to a TV may be a sign of nearsightedness.

eye diagram

Myth: If you cross your eyes, they'll stay that way.

Fact: Contrary to the old saying, eyes will not stay that way if you cross them. If your child is crossing one eye constantly, schedule an evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

Myth: If parents have poor eyesight, their kids will inherit that trait.

Fact: Unfortunately, this one is sometimes true. If you need glasses for good vision or have developed an eye condition (such as cataracts), your kids might inherit that same trait. Discuss your family's visual history with your doctor.

Myth: Eating carrots can improve vision.

Fact: Although it's true that carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for sight, so are many other foods (asparagus, apricots, nectarines, and milk, for example). A well-balanced diet can provide the vitamin A needed for good vision, says the AAO.

Myth: Computer use can damage the eyes.

Fact: According to the AAO, computer use won't harm the eyes. However, when using a computer for long periods of time, the eyes blink less than normal (like they do when reading or performing other close work). This makes the eyes dry, which may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. So encourage your kids to take frequent breaks from Internet surfing or video games.

Myth: Two blue-eyed parents can't produce a child with brown eyes.

Fact: Two blue-eyed parents can have a child with brown eyes, although it's very rare. Likewise, two brown-eyed parents can have a child with blue eyes, although this is also uncommon.

Myth: Only boys can be color-blind.

Fact: It's estimated that up to 8% of boys have some degree of color blindness, whereas less than 1% of girls do.

Myth: The eye is full size at birth.

Fact: The eye is NOT full size at birth but continues to grow with your child. This growth partially accounts for refractive (glasses) changes that occur during childhood.

Myth: Wearing glasses too much will make the eyes "dependent" on them.

Fact: Refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism) change as kids get older. Many variables come into play, but most of this change is likely due to genetics and continues despite wearing glasses earlier or later or more or less. Wearing glasses does not make the eyes get worse.

Reviewed by: Jonathan H. Salvin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013