According to the numbers from Vision 2020 Australia, an offshoot of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, more than 453,000 are blind or vision-impaired. Ninety percent of blindness and vision impairment among both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is preventable, however—and that makes it all the more urgent for us to be on the “light side” of eye health.
Eyes are particularly sensitive parts of our bodies; if any harm comes to them, or if they are neglected, our visual facilities may suffer permanently. Whether it be during a visit to your local optical store, an exam at your ophthalmologist’s, or while you finish first aid basics at a training course in Brisbane for eye-related first aid, you’ll encounter this principle all throughout: your eyes need to be treated with special care.
But outside of these reputable sources for eye-related information, and optometrists’ associations like PECAA and others, there’s also a wide body of myths and old wives’ tales about eye treatment. These constitute the beliefs we may have had as children, or beliefs used by our parents to scare us into behaving properly. The question is: are these beliefs based on fact or fiction, and do they really contribute to improving our eyesight?
To give you a closer look (pun intended), here’s a survey of 5 common eye myths, why they persist, and what the proper course of action should really be.
- The myth: Small particles that come in contact with my eye will eventually become trapped under/at the back of the eyeball.
This is something we likely believed as children, and such a belief probably instilled a permanent fear of dust, sand grains, pollen, and the like. But the human eye is capable of flushing out small amounts of debris without tearing. Unless the said particle becomes embedded, then there’s nothing to worry about.
The method: If a speck or grain finds its way into your eyes, resist the temptation to rub them. Blink until the foreign article makes its way out of your eye. You can also flush your eye with clean water while keeping it open. If it does seem embedded and is causing you pain or discomfort, seek medical assistance immediately. Do not try to remove the speck with your fingernail.
- The myth: If I use corrective lenses, my eyes will become dependent on them. Consequently, my eyesight will not improve.
Some people may prescribe to this myth because they notice their prescriptions fluctuating from time to time. But you should not equate the deterioration of your eyesight with your prescription alone. Fluctuating grades may be a sign of ageing, or a symptom of a disease.
The method: In any case, follow your optometrist’s prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. On average, you should visit your optometrist every year to discern changes to your grade, but you can shorten this to a six-month interval if it seems your lenses are giving you problems. Do be careful as well about the maintenance and replacement of your contact lenses. Don’t leave them in your eyes for long periods, apply lubricant eye drops to prevent dryness and laceration and, if they are the disposable type, switch them out once they’ve expired.
- The myth: Reading in the dark or sitting too close to the television will damage my eyesight.
This is a myth our parents likely turned to in order to scold us out of watching too much telly, reading after hours, or sleeping too late. But as adults, we should know that these beliefs are pure fiction.
The method: Although neither of these actions will permanently impair your eyesight, they might cause eyestrain and a nasty headache. When you’re reading, make sure that your book is held up in a stable position, and that the lighting in your reading environment is sufficient. Watch television in moderation—pause the binge-watch of your favourite series if you feel a headache coming on.
- The myth: Eating lots of carrots will improve my vision.
This one’s another parental favourite, used to encourage children to eat their vegetables at the dinner table. It’s true that carrots are rich in Vitamin A, a nutrient that boosts good vision, but this myth presupposes carrots as the top food for eye health. In reality, carrots alone aren’t enough to preserve 20/20 vision.
The method: Eat carrots to supplement a balanced diet chock-full of other good foods for your eyes. Other edibles that inspire better eye health are oily fish, eggs, milk, oranges, and green leafy vegetables.
- The myth: I should only get my eyes checked up when there’s a problem.
On the contrary, a full dilated eye exam should occur as often as your doctor advises it. Some patients may need regular eye exams, not only on the occasion that their eyes are bothering them. These exams are a good way to obtain a comprehensive assessment of your eye health, as well as to detect any signs of other illnesses that may manifest in the eyes.
The method: Upon getting a dilated eye exam for the first time, ask your doctor how often you should expect to come back. When you do, come prepared with updates about how your eyesight’s been, whether you are able to fulfil everyday tasks like driving with ease, and what prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking. Bring your glasses or contact lenses for quick reference.
If we compare the facts versus the fiction, we’ll see a common sentiment of extra-vigilance about our eyes. To a certain extent, such myths go around because people have the best of intentions. But to achieve optimum eye health, Australians will need to dispel the myths and aim for the vetted practices.
*This article is for informational purposes only and does constitute, replace, or qualify as RPL for our first aid training courses.