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No, side bangs will not give you a lazy eye

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Call it the great one-day (we hope) lazy eye panic.

It started, apparently, with a story in the Australian tabloid Daily Telegraph, which quoted an Aussie eye doctor as indicting the hair-over-one-eye hairstyles of Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie (those of us into old movies prefer Veronica Lake), and countless emo boys and girls, as causing lazy eye, or amblyopia.   

Then the story made its way to The Huffington Post. By the time msnbc.com contacted Dr. Leonard Press, the New Jersey eye specialist who co-authored the clinical practice guidelines on amblyopia for the American Optometric Association, the assistant who picked up the phone said “You mean the hair-over-the-eyes thing?”

Press could barely suppress a chuckle.

Amblyopia, a condition of reduced vision in which the brain does not recognize some or all of the information the eye sees, is indeed a serious eye problem, he said, and one of the reasons it’s serious is that, if left untreated in children younger than 7 years old, a very concerted, sometimes difficult, effort has to be made to correct the lazy eye. That’s because after about age 7, the neural and optical mechanisms involved have been well established, and changing them is tough going.

That’s exactly the reason why Nicole Richie is safe.

“The story would only be true,” he explained, “if you had somebody young enough, and if that person never looked out of that eye -- if it was blocked 24-7. The reason it’s false is that you don’t have that constant deprivation.”

The visual system, Press said, “is so well-established” after childhood, that “combing your hair over your eye will not do anything to that system.”

So don’t worry all you emo boys and girls. By the time mother and father give in to whatever hairstyle you want, any eye problems won’t be the result of your comb-over. Laser lights, well, that could be another story.

Brian Alexander (www.BrianRAlexander.com) is co-author, with Larry Young, PhD., of "The Chemistry Between Us: Love Sex and the Science of Attraction," (www.TheChemistryBetweenUs.com)  to be published Sept. 13.

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