Analysis: widespread myths and anecdotes say that wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse, but the evidence actually shows the opposite
Wearing glasses is an emotional subject for a lot of people with a lot of myth masquerading as fact. It is true that vision changes as we age and, in many cases, the changes can be gradual and creep up on us. Vision develops and changes throughout childhood, and eyesight stabilises for most people as an adult and then starts to change again when we reach the mid-forties when reading starts to be an issue.
Myopia or short-sight is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness and vision impairment in the working age population and it is estimated that 50% of the worlds population will be short-sighted by 2050. Research by Dr Síofra Harrington at TU Dublin has shown that children with poor vision do worse at school and parents want to make sure that their children have the best chance in life.
From FreeMedEducation, what is myopia - and how can we treat it?
One of the biggest myths about wearing glasses is that it makes your eyes weaker. When I was brought for my first eye-test and glasses a long time ago, my parents were told to only let me wear the glasses when I needed them and that wearing glasses too much would weaken my eyes. But to me things were blurry without my glasses and I wanted to wear them all the time, to see like everyone else; to see without the hazy blur obscuring the details that everybody else could see.
This anecdotal belief that wearing glasses makes your eyes worse is widespread, but the evidence actually shows the opposite, particularly for short-sighted children. With the numbers of people who are short-sighted increasing all the time, researchers around the world are looking at how we manage short-sight, to see if there is a way to slow down how quickly short-sight gets worse. Conclusions published by the Cochrane Library need to be supported by high quality evidence and looking at the review of short-sight (Myopia) published this year, the advice that I am giving my patients and their parents is now evidence based.
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From The Girls With Glasses, how to pick glasses for kids
Let your child wear glasses all the time. It does not help to leave them off and take a break. Not wearing glasses can make your child’s eyes get worse quicker. It does not help to avoid wearing glasses or wear a prescription that is weaker to encourage the eyes to work harder. Wearing the proper glasses all the time means your child will see the world like everyone else, and will not make their short-sight get worse faster.
Outdoor time for younger kids seems to reduce the chance of being short-sighted or at least delay when it starts. The effect appears to be greater with younger children and before vision correction is first needed. Get children outside more from a young age.
Too much screen time is likely to make short-sighted kids worse, but near work seems to the problem rather just than the screens themselves so substituting a book for a phone or tablet may be just as bad. It is important to reduce close work, take regular breaks from close work and ensure your child holds their device or book no closer than their belly button and not close to their face.
There are ways to slow down how quickly short-sight gets worse. This is a new area of research and how much of an effect these things will have can vary from child to child. Ask your optometrist for advice on short-sightedness management or contact the Centre for Eye Research Ireland at TU Dublin to learn more. To find your nearest optometrist, check the Association of Optometrists Ireland website.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ