Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 04/21/21 9:10 AM
Here’s what’s tough about old wives’ tales: many have a bit of truth to them. Plus, in today’s culture, it seems almost certain that the term “old wives’ tale” should be offensive, right? Let’s call it a cultural myth instead. No reason to call out married women over the age of 90. The tale of glasses leading to dependence on glasses is shared by men and women, young and old alike.
With that established, why do people think this? And is it true? First, let’s go over why people think this.
There are two situations that make up the vast majority of cases where people need glasses more and more once they start wearing them. The first is the case of the near-sighted child or adolescent.
We are born with an eye that’s only about 80% as long as it will be in adulthood. That means that unless you’re born farsighted (with a “plus” prescription, as most babies have), then you will grow into nearsightedness. The longer an eye, the more “minus” (nearsighted) a prescription grows. That’s why a kid might need -2.00 in their glasses in elementary school, but go on to need -6.00 glasses in high school. In these cases, glasses dependence will grow whether the kid wears the glasses or not — for the same reason their shoe size will increase whether they wear shoes or not.
The situation that requires an increased dependence on glasses is for near vision after the age of 40. This is where the cultural myth gets its power. And it’s also where the cultural myth is correct. Once we start wearing glasses for near vision, the dependency on them will increase more quickly for most people. Unfortunately, avoiding reading glasses is only possible for a few years before it becomes a necessity.
There’s a reason it’s not a bad idea to fight the good fight against readers for a few years. Once your eye muscles get a chance to relax — avoiding the strain of trying to focus to read — they really like it. The same effort gets more difficult once you’ve gotten used to “easy mode.”
Eventually, however, the eye strain and the headaches aren’t worth it. So if you can still read without glasses, but it just takes good lighting, then great! If you’re at the point where it’s too difficult to read without great effort, then it’s best to get the readers or switch to bifocals… because it’s a change that’s inevitable with or without readers. Not just for old wives, but for everyone else too.