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Are you planning to dress as a pirate for Halloween? Few costume accessories are as iconic as a pirate’s eyepatch. But why, exactly, did pirates wear them?

A treasure chest of vision benefits

While some believe that eyepatches were worn to cover up an injured or missing eye, it’s likelier that pirates had healthy eyes under their patches. So why would they wear them, then? Well, many people believe that it was so one eye would always be adapted to the dark.

When entering dark areas, our eyes go through dark adaptation. This is when they go through a shift where they rely less on the high-resolution cones in our eyes, and more on the low-resolution rods. However, it can take as long as 25 minutes for this to occur.

When pirates were boarding ships or being boarded by the authorities, they would often have to fight both above and below decks. The upper decks would be bright from the sun, of course, but below decks would be very dim. So, when a pirate went below, they would switch their patch to the light-adjusted eye and use the other eye to see in the dark.

Pirate myth or pirate fact?

While there are no written records of this happening, this technique has been proven on multiple occasions to be effective. In fact, some pilots even close one eye to ensure they have both day and night vision when flying.

While the days of the jolly roger are long gone, the desire for clear day and night vision is as present as ever. If you want to make sure you can see clearly at all times of day, schedule an appointment with a CEENTA eye doctor.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To find a CEENTA eye practice near you, visit our Locations page. To make an appointment with a CEENTA eye doctor, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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