Busting Myths and Educating Patients on Eye Health

A lot of us grew up hearing the phrase, “Don’t cross your eyes, they might stick!” There are a lot of myths out there about eyes and patients may not always know what’s true or what they should really be doing to protect their eye health. Giving your patients some fast or fun facts can help engage them in their eye care. 


1 | The eyes are the second most complex organ in our bodies.

The brain is the only organ that is more complex than the eyes. The eye has over two million working parts! The muscles in the eye help eyes move in many different directions, including crossing them. Doing so won’t leave them permanently crossed. Crossed eyes result from disease, from an uncorrected refractive error, or from muscle or nerve damage, not from forcing them into that position. 


However, this complexity means that eyes do need plenty of nutrients to stay healthy! Our eyes need nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E. Encourage patients to eat foods such as salmon, leafy green veggies, nuts, beans, and citrus fruits to keep their eyes healthy.


2 | Reading in poor lighting won’t hurt your eyes.

There is another myth out there that reading in dim or poor lighting will harm or hurt your eyes. Before the invention of the electric light, most nighttime activities, including reading, were done by dim candlelight or gaslight. Reading in this light today won’t harm your eyes any more than it did before electric light. 


On the other end of the spectrum, looking at a device or computer screen for a long time can fatigue your eyes. Effects are temporary and can cause eye fatigue; blurry vision; dry eyes; headaches; trouble focusing at a distance; and even neck, back, and shoulder pain. To protect the eyes, patients can wear glasses with a blue light filter as well as practice the 20-20-20 rule: rest the eyes every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 


3 | Eyes can get sunburned.

Nearly all of us know it’s important to not look directly at the sun. But most patients may not know that their eyes can get sunburned. While most people may not be out in the sun long enough without a good pair of sunglasses to get sunburned, it’s important to have the right sunglasses!


Too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays boosts your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. Sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Patients who work outside for their job should consider wraparound sunglasses that will help protect their eyes from the side as well.


4 | Yes, you can sneeze with your eyes open.

You can sneeze with your eyes open, and no your eyes won’t pop out. It is possible to sneeze with your eyes open, but you have to make a concerted effort to keep your eyes open. It’s believed that we shut our eyes when we sneeze to minimize irritants ejected through our nose in our sneezes from entering and aggravating the eyes. 


In other words, patients should be more concerned about what could get in their eye and damage them than by an eyeball popping out if they somehow sneeze with their eyes open. Instead of worrying about this myth, patients should use protective eyewear when handling chemicals or using tools such as chainsaws, or while doing sports to protect their eyes from sharp objects or caustic materials. 


5 | Having 20/20 vision doesn’t mean your eyes are perfect.

Most patients think 20/20 vision means perfect vision. It’s important to help them understand that it denotes a person with excellent central vision. People with 20/20 vision may have other types of vision that are imperfect, such as side vision, night vision, or color vision. 


There are certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, that take years to develop. During this time, they are harming parts of the inner eye, but the central vision can remain unaffected. Patients should be encouraged to make routine appointments for an eye checkup as this is the only way to catch an eye disease early, when it is easier to treat. 


Final Thoughts

Educating patients in a fun way with interesting facts about eyes can help them be more engaged in their eye health. Consider writing up a blog or a newsletter that includes some of these facts and others along with how patients can protect their vision and eye health. When learning is fun, the information is more likely to stick and patient compliance is more likely to occur! 

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