People keep saying that it is important to have adequate light when reading, because reading in dim light will damage your eyes. Is this true and why?


Short answer
The consensus is that sub-optimal lighting does not permanently damage the eye.

Sub-optimal lighting can create a sensation of having difficulty in focusing. It also decreases the rate of blinking and leads to discomfort from drying. These complaints do not persist. The majority consensus in ophthalmology is that reading in dim light does not damage your eyes; it is a myth. Although it can cause eye strain with multiple temporary negative effects, it is unlikely to cause a permanent change to the function or structure of the eyes (Vreeman & Caroll, 2007).

If you Google your question many credible sources outside the scientific literature seem to agree that it is a myth busted, including WebMD, ABC and Wall Street Journal.

- Vreeman & Caroll, BMJ (2007); 335

  • 1
    I like your answer, but are there experiments and research papers on this? A Google scholar search does not give much results
    – TanMath
    Nov 3 '15 at 3:11
  • @TanMath - thanks! It is based on a review-like, but non-peer-reviewed mythbusting paper as cited above. I think most of the data pertains to meta analyses. I linked the NIH-page to the paper that includes all the references. I recommend starting from there if you need background information.
    – AliceD
    Nov 3 '15 at 3:20
  • OK.. I didn't notice that PubMed link. Thanks!
    – TanMath
    Nov 3 '15 at 3:26
  • @MattDMo - thanks for the edits. Clearly not a native speaker here :)
    – AliceD
    Nov 4 '15 at 1:57
  • 1
    actually, there may be some scientific evidence related to dim light being related to myopia. See the recent review article on nature.
    – glS
    Nov 4 '15 at 7:51

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