CONTINUING EDUCATION, 1 CE Credit – $9.99, 1 Hour, General Knowledge, Level 1, Release date: October 2007, Expiration date: October 31, 2012

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Fact or Fiction?

The belief of an "evil eye" by many people in many parts of the world is a myth that just won't die. We know that an intense gaze can cause the innocent recipient to feel uncomfortable and strangely affected.

Film goers were recently treated to a movie whose theme centered around men in the military who could stare at a goat and kill it. During the Medieval ages a particularly damaging result could come from an individual who exhibited a muscle imbalance, corneal leucoma or any other striking, abnormal appearance of the eye. 

An applicable curse could be expected when exposed to such a person with an unlucky ocular appearance. One may be afflicted with bad luck, disease, and even death. Some believe that a person, not vicious in any way, can harm adults, children, livestock or a possession merely by looking at them with envy. Experts say that the term, "evil eye" is misleading since no one intentionally "cursed" the victim. 

It only implied that his/her gaze remained focused on the subject, person, animal or possession too darned long. At last, the evil eye story has proved to be more myth than fact. Yet, in these modern times there exists many false ideas concerning the eyes, vision and eye glasses. This is as good a time as any to expunge the myths and present the facts.

For example: 

#1- SQUINTING will not make your vision worsen; however it is a symptom of the possible need for eye glasses. By narrowing the lids it allows a concentration of the central rays that enter the narrowed pupil. Side effects, such as headaches, may result from the muscle stress around the eyes and face.

#2 - POOR LIGHTING while reading will not harm the vision. However, better vision occurs when adequate light enhances the focus and allows the retina to do its job. Also, straining to see small print is uncomfortable but will not cause lasting damage. The proper spectacle prescription often alleviates the problem.

#3 - SITTING TOO CLOSE to the TV or computer monitor for a prolonged period of time causes only temporary after effects. Often, the TV or computer screen is inaccurate and operators tend not to blink, adding a dry eye symptom to the problem. It is recommended that frequent breaks be taken so that excessive near point concentration can be relaxed. Children tend to sit close to the TV without damaging the eyes, since their range of accommodation is great enough to handle the situation. There is a theory that children tend to want the TV and reading material closer because of the psychological effect of learning more by inserting one's whole self into the act. That being said, we must never overlook the possibility of a refractive error playing its part in the problem.

#4 - WE INHERIT the same eye problems as our parents? Genetic eye problems may occur from time to time but it's not an absolute rule. There may be more of a risk but not a guarantee. Glaucoma has a high rate of risk through inheritance. High refractive errors in parents may also be handed down to the children as dominant genes. On the other hand, cataracts have no basis related to inheritance and its occurrence can be considered random. 

#5 - AGING PROBLEMS do not necessarily mean that worsening vision cannot be helped. Some changes are inevitable, such as cases of cataracts in our elderly population. It is merely a normal aging change similar to graying hair and stiff joints. Today, cataract surgery is considered commonplace and almost foolproof. In addition to research concerning cataract prevention, there are other helpful hints for better vision. Good dietary habits, no smoking, control of sugar and cholesterol levels are those items that are high on the prevention list. LASIK surgery and eye wear help to round out the means toward better vision.

#6 - EATING CARROTS is part of a good dietary habit but ingesting a barrel full per day will not give you the eagle eye vision a person hopes for. Vitamin A deficiency may trouble the vision but an excess of that vitamin will not enhance the vision further and may cause some systemic distress. Foods that help the eyes include: Dark green veggies like, spinach and broccoli which contains lutein, a substance which has been found to inhibit the development of macular degeneration. It is also found in egg yolks.

#7- EYE EXERCISES may or might not improve vision. Certain professionally designed exercises are often used in cases of youngsters who have exhibited symptoms of convergence or accommodative insufficiency. Adults do not seem to respond too readily to this course of action. The exercise regimen demands a commitment of a good deal of time and effort. This is another aspect of visual correction wherein success cannot be guaranteed. There are patented, commercially driven eye exercise systems that exist. They insist that their exercises will help people get rid of their glasses. The system has been criticized and shown to merit no scientific support whatsoever. There are programs to teach patients with certain defects to utilize the vision which remains. The central axis of vision may be moved by the patient to allow a more receptive part of the retina to function. 

#8 - PROLONGED USE OF EYEGLASSES does not make vision worse. A patient doesn't become dependent on spectacles since the physiology of the eye does not change. However, expected aging will play a role in natural changes. Progressive myopia, presbyopia and induced changes from cataract or diabetes produce changes not due to wearing of spectacles. These are changes that would have occurred notwithstanding the wearing of eye glasses beforehand. 

#9 - NOT WEARING GLASSES will not cause the eyesight to deteriorate quicker. The world will remain out of focus without glasses. The patient will squint and strain but no lasting damage results. The eye itself is unaffected. That being the case, there is no valid reason for a patient to believe that spectacle correction will reduce the vision itself. By not wearing glasses a disservice is caused to the person requiring the correction. 

#10 - CHILDREN WITH CROSSED OR LAZY EYE require special attention and therapy. Those who believe that intervention is unnecessary and that the children will outgrow theses defects are wrong. Permanent damage could result by belief in this fiction. These problems should be addressed quickly. Crossed eyes prevent single, binocular, simultaneous vision and the loss of depth perception. The earlier these matters are recognized, the better are our chances for restoring normal vision. A favorite method for early treatment of a "lazy" eye is the use of a patch over the better eye to force increased visual skill in the affected eye.

#11- NO PROBLEMS, NO EXAM is not the recommended avenue to pursue. It is not acceptable to skip a child's first exam because no abnormality is observed. Some feel that by the age of three years it is a good idea to start a regimen of regular eye exams. In this manner, early diagnosis and treatment of vision problems saves immeasurable grief later in life. Many nursery schools conduct screenings of children. Some of these are accurate and some fall short of what is needed. Some school nurses are not aware of what constitutes a good screening program. The children wish to perform well and will often cheat by peering past the occluder allowing them to see the chart unencumbered. Eye care professionals feel that parental and teacher observation has more validity than simple screenings. A professional eye exam also brings out the possibility of a medical family history of eye problems. 

"Even when the facts are available, most people seem to prefer the legend and refuse to believe the truth when it in any way dislodges the myth." 
John Mason Brown: Saturday Review

Elmer Friedman, O.D.

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