Eye Care Facts and Myths
- Reading in dim light is harmful to your eyes.
- It is not harmful to watch a welder or look at the sun if you squint, or look through narrowed eyelids.
- Using a computer, or video display terminal (VDT), is harmful to the eyes.
- If you use your eyes too much, you wear them out.
- Wearing poorly-fit glasses damages your eyes.
- Wearing poorly-fit contacts does not harm your eyes.
- You do not need to have your eyes checked until you are in your 40s or 50s.
- Safety goggles are more trouble than they’re worth.
- It’s okay to swim while wearing soft contact lenses.
- Children outgrow crossed eyes.
- A cataract must be ripe before it can be removed.
- Cataracts can be removed with lasers.
- Eyes can be transplanted.
- All eye care providers are the same.
Although reading in dim light can make your eyes feel tired, it is not harmful.
Even if you squint, ultra-violet light still gets to your eyes, damaging the cornea, lens and retina. Never watch welding without wearing the proper protection. Never look directly at an eclipse.
Although using a VDT is associated with eyestrain or fatigue, it is not harmful to the eyes.
You can use your eyes as much as you wish-they do not wear out.
Although a good glasses fit is required for good vision, a poor fit does not damage your eyes.
Poorly fit contact lenses can be harmful to your cornea (the window at the front of your eye). Make certain your eyes are checked regularly by your ophthalmologist if you wear contact lenses.
There are several asymptomatic, yet treatable, eye diseases (most notably glaucoma) that can begin prior to your 40s.
Safety goggles prevent many potentially blinding injuries every year. Keep goggles handy and use them!
Potentially blinding eye infections can result from swimming or using a hot tub while wearing contact lenses.
Children do not outgrow truly crossed eyes. A child whose eyes are misaligned has strabismus and can develop poor vision in one eye (a condition known as amblyopia) because the brain turns off the misaligned or “lazy” eye. The sooner crossed or misaligned eyes are treated, the less likely the child will have permanently impaired vision.
With modern cataract surgery, a cataract does not have to ripen before it is removed. When a cataract keeps you from doing the things you like or need to do, consider having it removed.
Cataracts cannot be removed with a laser. The cloudy lens must be removed through a surgical incision. However, after cataract surgery, a membrane within the eye may become cloudy. This membrane can be opened with laser surgery.
The eye cannot be transplanted. It is connected to the brain by the optic nerve, which cannot be reconnected once it has been severed. The cornea-the clear front part of the eye-can be transplanted. Surgeons often use plastic intraocular lens implants (IOL’s) to replace natural lenses removed during cataract surgery.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), uniquely trained to diagnose and treat all disorders of the eye. An ophthalmologist is qualified to perform surgery, prescribe and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses, and prescribe medication.
An optometrist (O.D.) is not a medical doctor, but is specially trained to diagnose eye abnormalities, and prescribe, supply and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses. In most states, optometrists can use drugs to treat certain eye disorders. An optician fits, supplies, and adjusts eyeglasses and contact lenses. An optician cannot examine the eyes or prescribe eyeglasses or medication.
Fireworks rupture the eyeball, burn the eye and face, cut eyelids, and cause corneal abrasions in approximately two thousand people every year in the US. One quarter of these eye injuries result in permanent loss of vision or blindness.
The single most dangerous type of firework is the small, explosive bottle rocket. Their erratic flight causes injuries to users and bystanders alike. Sparklers, often given to young children, burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly hot enough to melt gold.
To avoid the dangers of fireworks, attend public firework displays instead of using fireworks at home. Amateur backyard displays are dangerous to the person lighting the fireworks and to nearby family members, friends, and neighbors. Celebrate safely by letting the professionals put on the show.
At a public fireworks display, follow these safety tips to keep you and your family safe:
- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals-not only is it safer, it is also cheaper and more spectacular.
- Respect safety barriers set up to allow the pyrotechnicians (or firework professionals) to do their jobs safely.
- For the best and safest view, stand at least 500 feet, or up to a quarter of a mile, away.
- Follow directives given by event ushers and public safety personnel such as police and fire fighters.
- If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact local fire or police departments.
- Most importantly, never let your child play with fireworks. Ever.
- If a fireworks injury to the eye does occur, do not touch the eye. Get medical attention immediately.
First Aid for Eye Injuries
The most common type of eye injury that needs immediate action is a chemical burn. Alkaline materials (lye, plasters, cements, and ammonia), solvents, acids, and detergents can be harmful to the eye. Eyes should be flushed liberally with water if exposed to any of these agents.
If sterile solutions are readily available, use them to flush the affected eye. If not, go to the nearest sink, shower or hose and begin washing the eye with large amounts of water. If the eye has come in contact with an alkaline agent, it is important to flush the eye for ten minutes or more. Make sure water is getting under the upper and lower eyelids.
Abrasions or scratches of the eyelids or cornea, the clear covering of the eye, occur frequently and can be quite uncomfortable. If the abrasion is dirty, gently cleanse the area with a stream of clean water.
Do not attempt to treat severe blunt trauma or penetrating injuries to the eye. Tape a paper or Styrofoam cup over the injured eye to protect it until proper care can be obtained.
In the case of a blow to the eye, do not assume the injury is minor. The eye should be examined thoroughly by an ophthalmologist because vision-threatening damage could be hidden.
First aid is only the first step for emergency treatment. If you experience pain, impaired vision, or any possibility of eye damage, call your ophthalmologist or go the emergency room immediately.