An ophthalmologist and optometrist debunk biggest vision myths

  • Ophthalmologist Rupa Wong and optometrist Jenifer Bossert debunk myths about vision and eye health.
  • They debunk the myth that carrots improve your eyesight and reading in the dark damages your vision.
  • They also discuss the safety of LASIK eye surgery and the best practices for contact use.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The following is a transcript of the video.

Rupa Wong: “If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.” Man, that’s an oldie but a goodie.

“It’s OK to go swimming or take a shower in contact lenses.”

All right, everybody does it. But they really shouldn’t.

“Styes are contagious.”

Jenifer Bossert: No!

Wong: Not at all.

Bossert: Styes are not contagious.

Wong: And you don’t get them from pools.

Bossert: And you don’t get them from rubbing your eyes.

Wong: Doorknobs.

Bossert: Kissing others. No, you don’t get them from any of those things. Aloha, my name is Dr. Jenifer Bossert. I am the optometrist at the Honolulu Eye Clinic. I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and my specialty is contact lenses.

Wong: And aloha, everyone. I am Dr. Rupa Wong. I am a board-certified ophthalmologist. I’ve been in private practice here in Hawaii for 13 years working alongside this wonderful lady here. I specialize in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus.

Bossert: And today we are here to debunk myths about vision. We’re going to start off with debunking myths that we used to think were true.

“Reading in the dark or while lying down will damage your vision.”

Bossert: No, this is a myth. It does not damage your vision.

Wong: And my oldest son reads in the dark all the time. My mother, obviously knows I’m an ophthalmologist, still comes to my house and tells me, “Your son should not read in the dark.” Not true. Because people need good light to see better, they assumed maybe that when you’re reading in the dark, because it is usually more challenging, maybe they thought that was straining your eyes. People confuse those issues with damaging your eyes.

“Eating carrots will improve your eyesight.”

Wong: I have actually just studied where the origin of this myth came from. It’s really interesting. So, it was basically a campaign during World War II because the British air fighter pilots had this radar technology to be able to detect the German targets. But they didn’t want the Germans to know that they had the radar technology, so they just said that their air pilots were eating a lot of carrots and therefore had good night vision.

Bossert: How fascinating! See? I learned something today. I love it!

Wong: Vitamin A is very important for the metabolism that’s being performed in your retina.

Bossert: A, C, E, magnesium, lutein, omega-3s, those are the common ones that we all consider important for optimum eye health.

Wong: Zinc.

Bossert: Zinc.

Wong: All of these vitamins can help halt the progression of macular degeneration, but in the studies it didn’t demonstrate any more effect for people like us, that don’t have any macular degeneration.

“Wearing someone else’s glasses will ruin your vision.”

Wong: If a child, really younger than 13, is wearing someone else’s glasses, it can ruin their vision if it is completely off. Because if it’s promoting blurry vision, that’s going to inhibit the growth of the connections between the eyes and the brain. So kids under 13, they are in a special period of their vision development called the critical period. So, absolutely, I never, ever recommend that children wear anybody else’s glasses. But for adults, it’s a little bit of a different story.

Bossert: With adults, it isn’t going to harm your eyes, but it can contribute to eye fatigue, eye strain, headaches. So, yes, we always encourage everybody to get their annual checkups, wear their own glasses, and keep them updated.

“Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyesight.”

Wong: Typically a parent wants their child to move back from the television, and it’s a total myth.

Bossert: And it doesn’t harm an adult’s eyes, either. So, when I have a parent ask me that in the exam, I encourage them to bring them in so that we can actually check their child and just see if it’s a habit that the child has or whether they actually have an underlying nearsighted process occurring. If they’re sitting too close to the television, then I’m concerned that maybe they’ve been developing nearsightedness. A young child doesn’t know that that’s happening.

Wong: Just because your parents are nearsighted does not mean 100% you’re going to be nearsighted. Several studies have shown that two hours a day of sunlight is helpful at preventing nearsightedness progression. So I always tell my patients to get outdoors, but it’s not so easy in other parts of the country or world.

“If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.”

Wong: Man, that’s an oldie but a goodie, I think.

Bossert: I remember my grandmother telling me. We were out running around, and kids all playing, and my grandmother saying, “Your eyes are going to stay that way!”

Wong: Of course, that is actually my area of specialty, is crossed eyes. That’s what I do surgery for, to fix them. And I can tell you, I’ve never had to operate on anybody who crossed their eyes in intentionally and it got stuck that way. So that’s a complete myth. Some people are born with it. We call that congenital esotropia. Typically, if you’re born with it, you’re born with crossed eyes. Sometimes people develop it because the eye is blind for whatever reason, a separate reason. So if they’re young, then the eye tends to cross in with the blind eye. If they’re older and they sustain some kind of trauma or injury to the eye to cause it to become blind, then the eye wanders out. ‘Cause I’ve seen so many patients that have come from other eye doctors who have been told for years, No. 1, “Your insurance doesn’t cover it.” No. 2, “You’re too old for this surgery.” I’ve operated on a 95-year-old.

“Squinting is bad for your eyes.”

Bossert: We do know that when you squint, you tend to be able to see a little bit better when you’re nearsighted. Something called the pinhole effect. So that could be how that myth got started. A parent might see their child squinting and then think that it was the squinting that actually caused the nearsightedness, but it was the opposite. The nearsightedness caused the squinting.

“You will become dependent on your glasses if you wear them too much.”

Wong: As someone who now has started to need reading glasses, it is really hard to not believe this myth. I, when I take my reading glasses off, I swear I could see the iPhone way better.

Bossert: It’s not that the glasses made your vision worse, it’s just that your brain got used to having good, sharp vision when y ou put them on. So then when you take them off, your brain’s like, “No! I want them back again! I like seeing clearly!”

“You can’t wear your contacts if you have astigmatism.”

Bossert: This is definitely not true. I still hear that in this day and age, despite media campaigns, despite information dissemination. People still believe that if they have astigmatism, they won’t be able to wear contact lenses.

Wong: Or that they’re going to have to be hard contact lenses.

Bossert: Yes. Because 30 years ago, it was true, that really the only way that you could mask that astigmatism was to take a hard lens and put it on the eye. But now, daily disposables, I can correct 2.75 units of astigmatism, which is a lot. And in a reusable contact lens, I can go up to 5.75. I even have a brand-new option that if you are over 40 and need reading glasses, if you have astigmatism, you can even wear a bifocal contact lens that corrects for astigmatism now. But they are more difficult to fit because they interact with the eyelid, the shape of the eye. So sometimes we’ll have to go through two or three lens designs to find the best one for the patient. But it’s pretty rare that we can’t find something in this day and age.

Wong: Now we’re gonna talk about myths we hear all the time.

“Staring at a screen all day will make your eyesight worse.”

Bossert: Well, the jury’s still a little bit out on this one. Yes, anecdotally, we perceive that people that spend longer hours on a screen are the ones that are more likely to end up nearsighted. But studies don’t prove that. And particularly with COVID, with COVID and homeschooling, online schooling, we’ve seen a huge increase in parents asking us, “Do I need to get my kid blue blockers?” Well, the answer is no. There was a small study that came out and said that, yes, it could help decrease fatigue. But, like any study, we need to take those small studies and turn them into large studies to really truly get facts and figures that hold out for the larger population. So when they redid the study, it came out 50-50. It just really wasn’t proven to be statistically significant.

Wong: And that’s why we always recommend the 20-20-20 rule. People need to take breaks every 20 minutes for 20 seconds where they look at something 20 feet away.

“Only people with bad eyesight need eye exams.”

Wong: That is definitely a myth. There’s all sorts of conditions that still you have.

Bossert: Retinal holes, retinal tears, retinal detachments.

Wong: That’s another thing, where people always think, mistakenly, that they’ve had LASIK and as if LASIK has corrected their eyeballs. And it hasn’t. It’s just made their vision better. But they still have the pathology, the retinal issues, that they still require exams once a year.

Bossert: People think that they’re going to the eye doctor for their vision. Eye doctors would tell you that you’re going to the eye doctor for your eye health. Because if you don’t maintain the eye health, then you’re not going to be able to maintain good eye vision for the 100 years that you’re present on this earth.

“You won’t get glaucoma if you have perfect vision.”

Wong: Glaucoma is something that’s asymptomatic. So you can have perfect 20-20 vision and have the absolute worst end-stage glaucoma. Glaucoma is typically high pressure inside the eye, which causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye.

Bossert: And in the beginning, there are no signs whatsoever. So really the only way that we can detect glaucoma is to come in for your annual eye examination. And there are a series of tests that we do in the examination itself that allow us to screen for glaucoma.

Wong: So, when you catch glaucoma early, then we can start treatments earlier. And we can’t reverse any vision loss or any optic-nerve damage, but we can prevent future damage from happening, or at least slow that progression down. So, we start with eyedrops. We can even do laser treatments, which help with that drainage system and bring the fluid down. And then if we need to, we escalate to glaucoma surgeries.

Bossert: Myths from the internet. Let’s do those next.

“It’s OK to go swimming or take a shower in contact lenses.”

Wong: All right, everybody does it. But they really shouldn’t. You can really develop blinding infections from tap water and from water that’s in hot tubs.

Bossert: ‘Cause no matter what body of water we’re talking about, they all have some bacteria in them, even tap water. Which, that bacteria that bothers our eyes doesn’t bother our stomach, yet you don’t want to have it in the eye. Yes, do we all wash our face and we get water in? We do. But the critical thing is that this particular bug, called pseudomonas, is small enough that it can embed itself in the pores, in the matrix of the contact lens. And then it gets on your eye, and it sits there, and it sits there, and it sits there, for all those hours that you have it on. And that’s when the risk becomes high. ‘Cause then you reach up and you rub, you disturb the top layer of cells on the eye. Now there’s a little window for that bacteria to walk right into the eye. And unfortunately with pseudomonas, we don’t have good treatment modalities. It’s very resistant to the antibiotics that we have available to us.

“Stress causes eye floaters.”

Wong: No.

Bossert: No. Age causes eye floaters.

Wong: And trauma. A floater is just, it’s a vitreous detachment. And I tell my patients the vitreous is like Jell-O. When you get older, it starts to liquefy, and you get pockets, and dries up. And that’s what causes separates from the inner lining, from the retina. And that then floats all around in your field of vision. But it’s actually inside your eye. People think it’s a cockroach, they think it’s an ant. They try to swat it away. It’s not any of those things, but it’s an actual change in the anatomy of your eye. It’s not caused by stress.

“LASIK surgery is not safe.”

Bossert: LASIK surgery is definitely safe. At this point, LASIK surgery’s been around … 35 years now? Yes. If you were to do a Google search that pulled up some of those early results, there were definitely instances where there were cases of blindness. A lot of that was changed by further advancements in the technology, different ways to make the flap. So now, in this day and age, I would say that LASIK surgery is perfectly safe. That said, there is no surgery for any body part that doesn’t come with a risk of complications. Like, any body part. You want the doctor that’s doing the procedure on a weekly basis. You don’t want the doctor that’s doing this once every three or four months.

“Styes are contagious.”

Bossert: No.

Wong: Not at all.

Bossert: Styes are not contagious.

Wong: And you don’t get them from pools, public pools.

Bossert: And you don’t get them from rubbing your eyes.

Wong: Doorknobs.

Bossert: Kissing others. No, you don’t get them from any of those things. Just like some people can have more oily skin or more dry skin.

Wong: I describe it kind of like a pimple.

Bossert: The contents in the oil gland can be different consistencies. So if you tend to have that heavier, thicker oil inside the gland itself, then you can be more prone to getting them.

Wong: And usually what we want to do is heat. A lot of heat is going to help it drain. Pink eye is contagious. What most people think of as pink eye is viral conjunctivitis. Sometimes it can be bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is really, really contagious. That you do get from doorknobs and the surface of objects.

Producer: Is it possible to get pink eye if you, like, fart in someone’s face?

Wong: Is that something people think?

Producer: Yeah. Not true.

Wong: Not true. What I hope people take away from this video is that they get their annual eye exams, they don’t equal good vision with eye health, that they take their contact lenses out when they sleep and they shower, and that they follow the 20-20-20 rule.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body

Following is a transcript of the video.

It’s 11:00 pm. You should be asleep. But you’re watching a video on your phone. Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and go to work, where you’ll stare at your computer for 8 hours. When you get home, you’ll watch a movie on TV. And if you’re anything like the average American adult, you spend more than 7 hours a day staring at digital screens.

So, what’s all this screen time actually doing to your body and brain? Humans didn’t evolve to stare at bright screens all day. And our eyes are suffering the consequences. An estimated 58% of people who work on computers experience what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome.

It’s a series of symptoms that include:

  • eyestrain
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • and neck and back pain

And long-term, this amount of screen time could be damaging our vision permanently. Since 1971, cases of nearsightedness in the US have nearly doubled, which some scientists partly link to increased screen time. And in Asia today, nearly 90 percent of teens and adults are nearsighted. But it’s not just the brightness of our screens that affects us.

It’s also the color. Screens emit a mix of red, green, and blue light – similar colors in sunlight. And over millennia, it was blue wavelengths in sunlight that helped us keep our circadian rhythms in sync with our environment. But since our circadian rhythms are more sensitive to blue light than any others,

A problem occurs when we use our screens at night. Typically, when the sun sets, we produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us feel tired and fall asleep. But many studies have found that blue light from screens can disrupt this process.

For example, in one small study, participants who spent 4 hours reading e-books before bed for 5 nights produced 55% less melatonin than participants who read print books.

What’s more, the e-book readers reported that they:

  • Were more alert before bed
  • Took longer to fall asleep and reach a restorative REM state
  • And were more tired the next morning

But perhaps the most concerning changes we’re starting to see from all this screen time is in kids’ brains. An ongoing study supported by the NIH has found that some pre-teens who clocked over 7 hours a day on screens had differences in a part of their brains called the cortex. That’s the region responsible for processing information from our five senses.

Usually, our cortex gets thinner as we mature. But these kids had thinner cortices earlier than other kids who spent less time on screens. Scientists aren’t sure what this could mean for how the kids learn and behave later in life. But the same data also showed that kids who spent more than 2 hours a day on screens scored lower on thinking and language skill tests.

To be clear, the NIH data can’t confirm if more time spent staring at screens causes these effects. But they’ll have a better idea of any links as they continue to follow and study these kids over the next decade. It’s no doubt that screens have changed the way we communicate. But only time will tell what other changes are on the horizon for humankind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider