Medical Eye Myths

Health-related errors also stem from misapprehensions about health and disease, many of which are readily obtainable from the Internet.  A sampling related just to eyes:

  •  a person can tell when he has glaucoma by “feeling” the increased pressure in the eyes.  Untrue and dangerous: Early glaucoma is asymptomatic and can only be detected by measuring the pressure in the eyeball with an instrument.
  • “pinkeye” is always infectious and contagious.  Untrue: It can be allergy-related or due to some sort of irritant.
  • placing a warm tea bag on the eyes can relieve eye irritations.  Untrue, and it can lead to allergic sensitivity to tea components.
  • most headaches are due to eye problems.  Untrue; many have no known cause, and some causes – such as aneurysms and intracerebral bleeding – are medical emergencies.
  • cataracts must be “ripe” before being removed.  Untrue; ophthalmologists recommend that they be operated on when they begin to interfere with the patient’s lifestyle.  The timing might be very different, say, for a truck driver or an elderly person who spends most of his time watching TV.
  • use of glasses should be minimized to prevent dependency.  Untrue, and not wearing glasses when needed may predispose to falls and other accidents.
  • children outgrow crossed eyes.  Untrue.  One of the most common causes of turned-in eyes is hyperopia (commonly misnamed as far-sighted), which requires correction with eyeglasses; if not corrected, in time this may lead to weak vision (or lazy eye) in the turned-in eye.  This is very hard to correct beyond the age of about five years.
  • never borrow someone else’s glasses or you’ll ruin your eyes.  Untrue.  No harm will result other than not seeing well with these glasses or possibly a mild headache if the prescription is far different from yours.
  • computer screens damage eyes.  Untrue. The glare might cause your eyes to tire but there is no danger of radiation or other undesirable side-effects.
  • reading in dim light will hurt your eyes.  Untrue, but it might tire you more quickly than if you read in a brighter light.
  • sitting too close to the TV will hurt your eyes.  Untrue.
  • dark lenses on eyeglasses reduce glare better than lighter lenses.  Untrue.  Polarized lenses are best for reducing glare (e.g., sunlight reflected off snow or water); the tint is a personal preference based on comfort.
  •  a subconjunctival hemorrhage (a broken blood vessel in the white part of the eye) is serious and can affect your vision.  Untrue.  It resolves in 10-14 days and requires nothing more than artificial tears (if there’s a feeling of scratchiness).


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