There are many myths that are spread about the eye. Many have been around for years and some are new. People want to know what is going on with their eyes and don’t have a doctor around to answer all the questions that pop up every day. Therefore, false information often becomes fact for a large portion of the general community.
While some of these myths are harmless, some can actually be dangerous and result in delayed treatment and sometimes loss of vision. These myths are very difficult to eliminate because they very quickly become entrenched in the community and become key parts of parenting and teaching among family and friends. Therefore, doctors must try to convince people that something they have been taught for the past 10, 20, 50 years is not true. Even a 30-minute explanation in the doctor’s office may not be sufficient to reverse a myth that has been repeated to someone for the past 30 years. These are a few common myths that need to be buried.
If I start wearing glasses my vision will get worse? Glasses do not change the eyes. They only change the way light and images enter the eye. The eye stays the same. The images are refocused by the glasses to enter the eye in a way to make the images clear. People think their eye gets worse because the images in the glasses are so much clearer in the glasses. When they take off the glasses images are then blurry again, but the brain remembers how clear things were in the glasses. So then it seems like the vision got worse.
My friend had laser and it made her worse. There are many types of lasers. Lasers are most commonly used for diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and refractive surgery. There are many uses for lasers in ophthalmology and very rarely can laser surgery cause decrease in vision. However, it is used in severe diseases where studies have shown that if nothing is done there is a high likelihood that loss of vision will occur. The laser usually saves a percentage of these patients from losing their vision. However, the other percentage will lose vision whether laser is performed or not. These people will naturally believe that the laser caused the loss of vision. The truth is the laser was not able to prevent or stop the damage that was occurring.
Don’t you do cataract surgery with lasers? Laser surgery for cataracts is still experimental. One group in Manhattan does it. Everyone else in the country uses a technique called phacoemulsification which uses sound waves to remove the cataract. Some people call this laser because it is easier to say. Chances are that if someone says they had laser cataract surgery it was probably phacoemulsification.
I see fine. I just need to get new reading glasses. This is the most damaging myth because most eye diseases can be treated better when they are detected before there are any symptoms. Routine exams by an ophthalmologist can detect early signs of glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, etc. and treat them before they cause loss of vision. Once vision is lost it can be difficult and often impossible to return vision.
Sitting close to the television damages your vision. Children often sit close to the television because they cannot see it clearly across the room. These children need glasses to see everything clearly. Therefore, when they get their eyes checked, they are given glasses. Parents mistakenly believing that watching television up close caused the damage, but the truth is the child was watching television up close because he/she needed glasses from the beginning.
Instead of telling the child over and over to move back, make sure the child has an eye exam. A child most times will not complain that they cannot see because to them the way they see is normal. They do adaptive things like sit close to the television, hold things close to their face to see, or show lack of interest in things across the room (such as in school).
Myths will always be around but you don’t have to believe them.
For additional information, contact Dr. Paul Owens, O.D., ScD., P.C., diplomate American Board of Ophthalmology. His office is located at 94-42 60th Avenue, Suite A-2, Rego Park. Telephone, 271-6969.