When it comes to vision and eyesight, there are a lot of myths floating around. Some of these you may have heard growing up, like “if you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way” (false!) or “sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes” (also false, though it may be a warning sign of near-sightedness). But one of the most damaging myths circulating the collective consciousness is the idea that wearing glasses can somehow make your eyesight worse or make you “dependent” on glasses in a way that you weren’t before wearing them.
Today, we’re going to examine and debunk the myth that wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse. We’ll explore where that misunderstanding originated, why eyesight does worsen over time, and what to do to keep your eyes as healthy as possible throughout the course of your life.
No, Glasses Don’t Make Your Eyesight Worse
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Wearing glasses does not make your eyesight worse. However, sometimes vision does change—and even worsen—over time. Sometimes, this is due to eye diseases like cataracts or glaucoma. Other times, it’s due to a variety of genetic and environmental factors that can seem random. These are often the conditions that get falsely attributed to being “caused by” wearing glasses, but in truth, eyeglasses have nothing to do with worsening vision over time.
Naturally Worsening Eyesight in Childhood
This is most common for children who have been diagnosed with myopia, or nearsightedness. Myopia is caused, in large part, by the shape of your eyes. An eyeball that is longer than normal, or has a steeply curved cornea, can lead to nearsightedness. Over time, as your child grows and their body changes, this may get worse.
This is a condition known as “progressive myopia” and, like many progressive or degenerative conditions, the presence of progressive myopia in children is largely due to genetics. That being said, there is some evidence to suggest that children who spend a lot of time indoors are more prone to nearsightedness than other children, and sending your child to play outside more often may slow the rate of progressive myopia.
Naturally Worsening Eyesight in Adults
In adults, worsening eyesight over time is even more common. Presbyopia is a condition where your eyesight worsens over time, and it usually begins affecting people in mid-late adulthood. In fact, the word presbyopia comes from a Greek word that literally translates to “old eye.”
Presbyopia is due to the way your eyes naturally change over time, and if you live long enough, it will affect everyone eventually.
The clear lens that sits behind your iris is meant to change shape based on whether you’re looking at something close up or far away. Think of it like a lens on a camera, which has to shift and refocus depending on lighting and other factors. When you’re young, the lens in your eye is super flexible, and moving from one position to another takes your eyes minimal effort. But as you age, that lens slowly becomes more rigid. Just as your joints stiffen over time, making it harder to stretch or crouch down on the floor, so, too, do the other parts of your body. Your lens struggles to get into the position it needs to be in to let you see at certain distances, and as a result, it can become harder and harder to do up-close tasks like reading a menu or threading a needle.
The older you get, the more the lens behind your retina stiffens. This is why you may find yourself needing stronger and stronger reading glasses over time. Age is the biggest factor in determining the progression of presbyopia.
Why Do Some People Think That Eyeglasses Affect Their Sight Over Time?
Now that we understand what actually causes your eyesight to worsen over time, let’s re-examine the myth that eyeglasses are the cause of bad eyesight and determine how this myth came to be. To do this, we’re going to devolve for a moment into a story known as the “soda water parable.”
Imagine, for a moment, that you are from an alien species and you know nothing at all about human culture. To learn more about how humans work, you decide to try drinking at a local bar. The first night, you order nothing but gin and soda water. In the morning, you wake up with a headache and nausea. The next time you go to the bar, you order nothing but rum and soda water. Again, you wake up with a headache and nausea. The third time you go out drinking, you order nothing but vodka and soda water. For a third time, you wake up with a headache and nausea. Finally, you conclude that soda water causes headaches and nausea.
Now, as someone with insight into human culture, it’s easy to identify that it’s the alcohol, rather than the soda water, that was leading to a hangover in the previous story. But it’s equally easy to understand how the wrong conclusion could be drawn with that particular set of data.
This same concept can be applied to why some people think eyeglasses affect their vision over time. A person who has never before worn glasses and starts wearing a low prescription might determine, when their vision continues to deteriorate, that the glasses were the cause of the deterioration. Although the timeline between starting to wear glasses and worsening eyesight often coincides, it’s important to remember that you would not have needed corrective lenses in the first place if your vision wasn’t already beginning to deteriorate.
Is There Anything You Can Do to Prevent Presbyopia?
Unfortunately, presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process, and there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it. The majority of people over age 40 have some level of presbyopia, with a person’s likelihood of having presbyopia increasing the older they get.
In addition to causing blurred vision, presbyopia can lead to other issues, including tension headaches and eye strain.
Although presbyopia can’t be prevented, it can be treated. Reading glasses, prescription glasses, and contacts are all ways to treat presbyopia and keep it from impacting your quality of life.
The Best Way to Take Care of Your Eyes is To Wear Your Corrective Lenses Regularly
Far from causing bad eyesight, glasses are a treatment for worsening eyesight. Wearing your corrective lenses as prescribed by your doctor is the number one way to minimize eye strain, avoid tension headaches, and improve your vision. Keeping your lens prescription up to date is one of many reasons the World Health Organization recommends annual eye exams for adults.Luckily, glasses have come a long way in recent years. Today, wearing glasses is such a fashion-forward trend that many people without vision impairment choose to wear non-corrective lenses just to accessorize their outfits. Here at Peepers, we pride ourselves on using trend forecasting to produce the most of-the-moment styles so that you can feel confident and chic no matter where your eyes are at in the aging process!