13 habits that are detrimental to your eyes
You’re likely guilty of one or two bad habits that can lead to infections, injuries, and in some cases, the loss of eyesight.
Dr. Hailee Brayton, optometrist with Aurora Health Center in Sheboygan, Wis., outlines the following 13 risky eye habits to avoid.
- Rubbing and touching your eyes. Besides potentially rupturing blood vessels and having that unsightly issue, rubbing and touching your eyes — especially if your hands have not just been washed — can transfer bacteria and viruses to your lashes, lids and eyes. This can lead to infections such as pink eye. Rubbing your eyes can also accelerate a serious eye disease called keratoconus, which affects the cornea and could lead to loss of vision. And don’t pick and pluck at your eyelashes! They play an important role in protecting your eyes from dirt, dust and debris.
- Daily over-the-counter eye drop use. Using non-prescription eye drops daily can irritate your eyes. If you do use these OTC drops, don’t use the ones that say “gets the red out,” as these have other chemicals that can further irritate your eyes over time. Instead, use drops that say “natural tears.” If your eyes are consistently red or dry, make an appointment with an eye doctor.
- Ignoring dry eye. If you often experience a dry or gritty sensation in your eyes, it could be the sign of an underlying medical condition and, left untreated, dry eyes could lead to cornea damage. See your eye doctor.
- Not wearing eye protection. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, almost 45 percent of eye injuries happen at home. Protect your eyes from sharp objects and debris by donning goggles during home improvement projects and yard work.
- Skipping sunglasses. Sunglasses block harmful UV rays that can cause eye damage over time including cataracts, eye growths and macular degeneration. Sunglasses can also minimize the effects of bright lights, which, for some people, can cause headaches, blurred vision and red eye.
- Misusing eye makeup. Don’t apply eye makeup near the lash line, which can block oil glands and lead to an infection. Wash off your makeup before going to sleep to prevent dryness, irritation and possible infection. Toss eye makeup after three months, as bacteria quickly multiplies in eye makeup. If you do get an eye infection, replace all of your eye makeup.
- Eating an unhealthy diet. An unhealthy diet is detrimental to heart health, brain health and even eye health. Certain fruits and vegetables are crucial for optimum eye health, especially ones with vitamins A, C and E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Too much night-time screen activity. Staring at your smart phone or computer – especially with a small font, can lead to eye fatigue, blurred vision, dry eyes, dizziness, headaches, disturbed sleep and nausea. If you are reading a screen before bed, be that a computer, phone or e-reader screen, turn on a lamp to avoid eye strain and discomfort caused by reading in a dim light.
- Swimming without goggles. When chlorine used to clean pools mixes with bodily fluids, like sweat, urine and fecal matter, it can cause red and irritated eyes. Fresh and saltwater pools also contain bacteria and microorganisms , as well as debris, which may irritate your eyes.
If you wear contact lenses, avoid these four bad habits:
- Not periodically replacing your contact lens case. To avoid bacteria build-up that can cause sight-threatening infections, replace your contacts as prescribed and replace your case every 3-4 months. You should sterilize your case in boiling water for five minutes once a week.
- Re-using or topping off old contact lens solution. This causes bacteria to build up, increasing your risk for an eye infection.
- Using water or spit to rinse contact lenses. Saliva is loaded with germs and tap water has harmful organisms that can cause an eye infection that can even lead to blindness. In a pinch, use distilled water, saline drops or cooled boiled tap water.
- Sleeping in contacts. This can increase your risk of infection that can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. If you do accidentally sleep in your contacts, then clean them, leave them out of your eyes for 24 hours and call your doctor if your eyes become painful or red.
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About the Author
Hannah Koerner is a Public Affairs Specialist with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. In her free time, she enjoys biking, snowshoeing, and cheering on Wisconsin sports teams.