Carrots have vitamins that promote good vision, but - despite widespread belief - they aren't the best source of nutrients for eye health.
Spinach is actually the better nutritional choice. Yet less than 10 percent of Americans know that, according to a survey by the American Optometric Association that points to common misconceptions about eye health.
Even though sight is the sense adults value most, many avoid eye exams and engage in activities that could harm their vision. That's why eye screening recommendations were recently revised for adults over 40, a stage in which early signs of disease and vision problems occur. Routine eye exams can be instrumental, too, in detecting aging-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Yet 32 percent of adults who wear contact lenses or glasses said they have not visited a doctor within the past year. And about 11 percent of those who don't wear glasses said they only get an eye exam every three or four years.
Frequent eye tests could go a long way toward clearing up confusion about which everyday behaviors are most harmful to the eyes. About 83 percent of adults believed reading under dim lights is a trigger, and 78 percent believed sitting too close to the TV was problematic. While these activities can hurt vision, they are not the most serious problems. Drinking alcohol and consuming caffeine can be detrimental, AOS said.
Out of Contact
Contact lens care, in particular, is one area in which Americans fall short. About 79 percent of adults who wear lenses admitted to practicing poor lens hygiene on a routine basis, including showering or swimming with contacts, or sleeping with lenses that aren't approved for overnight wear. Many adults also wear contacts longer than suggested, and overlook the need to replace the contact lens case.
"Because lenses are so uncomfortable, it's easy for people to get careless," said Dr. Hilary Hawthorne, an optometrist. "However, the consequences may be dangerous, and failure to follow proper contact lens hygiene could damage eyes."
The AOS has a full list of suggestions for lens wearers related to cleaning, storage and replacement.
Overall, greater education may help distinguish myth from fact. For example, while most survey respondents had an opinion as to the leading cause of blindness in the US, only 24 percent knew the cause was macular degeneration.
And, for some conditions, perhaps wisdom increases with age. About 44 percent of baby boomers knew to use a cold compress to reduce under-eye puffiness, compared to 30 percent of Gen-Xers.
It's recommended that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline screening at age 40. For individuals at any age with symptoms of, or at risk for eye disease, such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends individuals see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined.