The rain has been coming down hard here in So Cal today. Oddly enough, all my patients showed up today; fighting their umbrellas through the wind.
A patient today asked me the Oh So familiar question: “If I start to wear glasses (or contact lenses), will my vision get worse, making me dependant on them in the future?”
They actually never word the question as matter-of-fact as I did above. They usually dance around the subject, use broken sentences and stutter a little, as if they’re insulting me with the very notion that my glasses will hook them for life. Obviously this is an actual concern of patients as I do, truly hear it often.
Here is the answer:
No…Wearing glasses (or contacts) does not affect the long term outcome of your vision. That being said, let me explain how the idea probably came about. I have two theories. The first theory has to do with one’s perception of clarity. If a person is nearsighted (not terribly) and has never worn glasses they do not know what clarity actually is. Basically, their brain does not strive to see perfectly because it doesn’t know what perfect vision is. Then, along comes a perfect prescription pair of glasses and the brain gets a taste of actual clarity. “Wow,” says the brain, “I like to see clearly…clear vision is awesome… I want it all the time.” So, now that the brain has been exposed to great vision, it no longer settles for a world of blur. The patient now becomes “hooked” on their glasses because they enjoy seeing clearly, without blur. They will often say, I used to drive without my glasses, now I always need them.
That is how I get blamed for making patients dependant on their glasses, scenario #1.
The second theory of dependancy on glasses has to do with something called presbyopia. Presbyopia is the process that occurrs in our early forties causing us difficulty in focussing our eyes at near objects such as reading, threading a needle, or reading a menu. It happens to us all and, unfortunately, is a degenerative process-in other words, it gets worse as we get older. That is the key to my second theory, the process of getting worse every year.
So, the forty-three year old patient comes into my office complaining that she has troubles reading in dim light and, especially, with small print. Her problem is not all the time, but, certainly bothers her on occasion. I examine her and prescribe reading glasses. Wow, she reads great now with her new glasses and loves to wear them.
Months pass and she now realizes that she is unable to comfortably read without her glasses most of the time. “Doggonit!” she thinks, “These glasses have ruined me, I need them all the time!”
Well, the glasses actually didn’t affect her eyes. Her eyes changed strictly because it was that specific time in her life, a maturation process, that coincided with her getting reading glasses. If she never got the glasses, her reading problems would still be the same. When the eyes become presbyopic, they become presbyopic regardless of one’s actions. (See my past blog “So You Want to Be a Billionaire.”)
I will still get asked the question, every week, every year. I will still give the same answer, as above, insisting that it’s not my fault that people can no longer live without my glasses. My father, Dr. Sy, always talks about the cocaine effect…”give ‘em that first little dose, and they’re hooked for life.” Now, you know it’s not true…well, not completely true.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. David B. Rosenblum
Cerritos, Newport Coast