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How Does Squinting Improve Vision?

Posted by Eye Specialists of Louisiana on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 @ 11:36 AM

why do we squint

Jameis Winston, Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback, has caused quite a buzz this season.  The 19-year-old is leading the charge in the Seminoles’ attempt to reach the BCS National Championship Game with the highest percentage of touchdowns per pass so far, and his name continually remains at the top of the list of Heisman contenders.  Yet, the buzz surrounding Jameis this week has been concentrated less on the game itself and more on his habit of squinting toward the sideline.


Winston has explained that while he does have contacts, he prefers not to wear them during the highly physical game of football.  Instead, he’s often caught squinting in an attempt to receive play-calls. Not wearing his corrective lenses may prove problematic for Winston, who has earned himself the nickname, Squinston, especially during night play.  However, the topic seems to be a non-issue for coach, Jimbo Fisher, who jokingly retorted, “Think how good he would be if he could see.” 


The situation may or may not impact FSU’s ultimate fate in the BCS and Winston’s own Heisman chances, but it does bring up an interesting question:  How does squinting improve our vision?


Why Do We Squint?

 In order for you to see, light must first pass through the lens of the eye to the retina.  From there, signals are sent to the brain to interpret the images your eyes are taking in.  However, the ability to see clearly depends on how the light is focused on the retina.  Hardening of the lens as you age and the shape of your eyes can both cause the light to be deflected from its central focal point and will often result in either near- or far-sightedness. 

 Without really understanding why, many with vision problems find themselves squinting in order to focus, just as Jameis Winston does on the field.  By squinting, vision is able to improve slightly.  But how does it work?

 First, squinting decreases the amount of light that is able to pass through the lens.  You’ll notice as you squint that the top and bottom eyelid come into view, obstructing part of your vision.  This blocks a lot of the peripheral light that is entering your eye at an angle.  These are the light rays that require your lens to straighten them and focus them on the retina – a mechanism that is flawed in people that require glasses.  Only the rays coming straight into the center of the eye are unobstructed.  They are already aligned and therefore don’t require focusing by the cornea or lens.  


Next, the shape of the eye is slightly changed, directly affecting how the light is filtered.  Together, these two factors allow you to focus more clearly by limiting light allowed through the lens and then focusing it more precisely, near the center of the retina.  While it may not drastically improve your eyesight, squinting can make just enough difference to allow you to read what’s on a page, see the TV, or receive a play-call from the sideline.

 The Bottom Line

 If you find yourself squinting in order to focus, you are likely in need of some form of corrective eyewear.  Glasses, contacts, or surgical correction such as LASIK can improve your eyesight dramatically.  Not only will you be more comfortable, but you will also be safer when performing such tasks as driving. 

 The first step in identifying your refractive error and addressing it appropriately is a thorough eye exam with a qualified ophthalmologist.  Based on your results, your eye doctor can speak with you about measures which will be most effective in correcting your vision.  Contact the office of Eye Specialists of Louisiana today to request an appointmentOur physicians are highly trained and able to help you keep your eyesight strong and healthy for years to come.


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