Do glasses weaken your eyes?

Kate Mitchell is pretty sure this isn’t the case, but asks for confirmation that she hasn’t doomed a friend’s eyesight through bad advice. I’m not sure what the consequences would have been if the facts proved her wrong (a new identity and a plane ticket to South America?) but it doesn’t matter, because glasses don’t weaken your eyes.

Many people who wear glasses or contact lenses feel they have proof right before their eyes that their glasses have had a detrimental effect on their vision. They seemed to get along well enough before they got glasses — the world may not have been in focus, but they could function. Months or years later they find that when they take them off they can’t see a thing. The glasses have actually made things worse!

At that point those inclined to conspiracy hunting no doubt imagine ophthalmologists conferring in smoke-filled rooms, laughing at the rubes who actually pay to have their eyesight destroyed — though I suppose the rooms wouldn’t be so smoke-filled these days, unless there’s something else the conspirators are keeping from us.

In reality it isn’t the eyes that have changed but the brain behind them. Pampered by working in a world of sharp lines and clear shapes, the brain isn’t used to compensating for the old deficiency. Of course eyesight can deteriorate, necessitating a new prescription, but this isn’t related to the glasses. Corrective lenses, so far as is known, don’t put eyesight up or down.

Youthful eyes are a little less forgiving, though, and some childhood vision problems can be exacerbated by the wrong treatment. Some researchers have theorised that even proper treatment could exacerbate problems but this has not been demonstrated. On the other hand it is certain that uncorrected vision problems cause huge difficulties for children.

So if you’ve been walking into door frames, conversing with mannequins and generally behaving like Mr Magoo because you think treating your short-sightedness would be, well, short-sighted, then your hilarious antics can finally come to an end. From an objective point of view, glasses don’t weaken your eyes.

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