Myth Monday: Do your eyes really stay the same size from birth?

I remember once being told this as a little kid and thinking it seemed like a plausible theory. When you think about it… we don’t really see our eye balls grow as we get older because such a large percentage of them are covered by our eyelids.

I thought about this again a couple months ago when a close friend of mine asked me the exact same question, and I realized this was legitimately a trending theory.

The answer to this question however is quite plainly no.

But before I explain why, I feel the need to point something out.

I decided to do a little research into how common this myth was before writing about it, and the results I found were actually quite surprising. Not only is it a common question asked on Google, but the NUMBER ONE ANSWER I found when I searched it was yes!

behold a screen shot from my search on August 5, 2015

To my science-savvy friends reading this, let’s all take a moment to chuckle about the fact an eyeball is an “organism”, and let’s also shudder at the fact we’ve all used this search engine at least once to complete a university assignment.

Anyway, I digress; here are 3 pieces of evidence as to why your eyes in fact do grow with age:

  1. Children cannot fully perceive detail until they are about 3 years old.

This is because their eyes are constantly growing and maturing from birth. Babies have eyes which are so small that images cannot focus directly on their retinas unless you get very close to them. Size isn’t the only thing that accounts for their blurry vision, their retinas also need to develop so they are more sensitive to contrast. 

Here's the bunny from the baby picture. Since I was a newborn when the photo was taken, I was probably seeing the image in the top left, which explains my expression.
Here’s the bunny from the baby picture. Since I was a newborn when the photo was taken, I was probably seeing the image in the top left, which explains my expression.
  1. People often need glasses because their eyes grow to be too long

Teens and pre-teens often start to notice their vision getting a little blurry when they look at the board at school. This is can be because their eyes have grown too long for the image they’re looking at to reach the retina. This is called short sightedness, where they can see what they are reading but have trouble with distance images. The growth change they experience can continue as they grow up, but tends to level off in their early twenties. The good news is that glasses are a quick fix for this!

  1. Microphthalmos

This is a developmental disorder that results in an abnormally small eye. While this is somewhat of an over simplification, this is a good example of what happens if the eye does not grow in size normally or at all. This condition can cause problems with vision and is often associated with other developmental factors. If you would like to learn a little more about Microphthalmos, click here, but be sure to scroll with care, as severe cases are depicted.

Image taken from Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach (8th Ed) by Brad Bowling
Image taken from Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach (8th Ed) by Brad Bowling

So if our eyes never grew, the human race would have a pretty hard time finding their way around. But my career choice would certainly be more lucrative!

Finally, for those of you who may be wondering… yes.. that oogly eyed chubby checker in the photo at the top is me as a very fashionable newborn baby.

Have some more eye myths you’d like debunked? Let me know in the comments section below 🙂

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