The eyes are among the most sensitive organs in your body. Unfortunately, common habits may be harming your eyes, in some cases even requiring treatment from an optometrist. That’s why it is always a good idea to assess your everyday routine and activities to make sure you’re not doing something that could affect your eyes.
In this article, Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist takes a close look at common habits that can hurt your eyes.
1. Too much Screen Time
Many people in today’s world spend hours every day staring at the screens of digital devices, whether a smart phone, laptop or tablet. When looking at a screen, your eye muscles have to focus at a near range. As you watch TV, do work on your laptop or watch YouTube on your phone, you’re less likely to blink, which means your eyes can get dried out, red, itchy and fatigued. In some instances, you may even experience blurred vision. These are the common symptoms of a condition called digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome.
Visual symptoms may be caused by uncorrected vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism, the glare from the digital screen, improper viewing distances and poor lighting.
Also worth noting is the fact that most digital screens are backlit and emit blue light, which, in addition to eye strain, can cause long-term retinal damage. This high-energy visible light wavelength can also suppress melatonin, throwing off your body’s circadian rhythm or sleep-wake patterns.
Just like the other muscles of your body, your eyes can benefit from a regular “work out.” Every eye doctor recommends the so-called “20-20-20” rule. After 20 minutes of screen time, look at an object at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds or more. To rest your eye muscles even further, limit the use of your computer or smartphone for at least one hour before you go to sleep.
2. Improper Use of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are a safe form of vision correction, with approximately 45 million Americans wearing them daily. However, most wearers practice at least some bad habits that put them at greater risk for serious contact lens-related eye infections.
For instance, in 2014, the U.S. Health Protection Agency revealed that approximately 99% of contact lens wearers reported at least one risk behavior for eye infections or inflammation. Frequent habits reported by the wearers include:
- Sleeping or napping while wearing their contact lenses
- Showering or swimming while wearing contact lenses
- Wearing lenses longer than they are supposed to
- Topping off contact lens solution
It’s critical to adopt proper contact lens wearing, handling and storage habits for optimal eye health. Eye care providers recommend these tips:
- Unless your contact lenses are designed for overnight wear, remove them before you go to sleep.
- Before handling your contacts, make sure you wash and dry your hands completely so no dirt or harmful microorganisms get transferred to them.
- Keep your case clean using a fresh solution every time. Replace the case with a new one after three months.
- Replace your contacts on schedule to prevent vision-related complications caused by extended wear.
- Visit a licensed optometrist for an eye exam before getting a contact lens prescription. Make sure the devices are properly fitted.
3. Rubbing Your Eyes
Many people rub their eyes when they feel tired or are suffering from an allergy or cold. You may also do it when your contacts are dry. It is a way to lubricate the eyes and remove irritants from them by stimulating tear production. By pressing down on your eyes, you stimulate the vagus nerve, which can help relieve stress by slowing down your heart rate.
Doing this little habit too often or too forcefully, however, can be dangerous to your eyes. For one, it can cause tiny blood vessels to break, giving your eyes a bloodshot appearance. Aside from this, it leaves dark, unsightly circles around your eyes that make you look perpetually tired and unwell.
Your fingers that you use to rub your eyes carry germs, which are then transferred to your eyes, potentially resulting in infections like conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” This condition is the inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the sclera or the white of your eyes and the conjunctiva or the inside of your eyelids.
Eye rubbing can be particularly harmful for people with pre-existing eye conditions. For example, it can actually make myopia (nearsightedness) worse in some individuals. It is also bad for people with glaucoma, as putting pressure on the eyelid using the fingers while rubbing can disrupt blood flow to the back of the eye. This can lead to nerve damage and potential vision loss.
Fortunately, excessive eye rubbing can easily be addressed to avoid discomfort. If you feel there’s a foreign object stuck in your eye, resist the urge to rub it—the object may easily scratch your cornea. Flush your eye with water instead. Also, if you have dry eyes, you can use eye drops or over-the-counter artificial tears to keep them hydrated and to prevent itching.
4. Not Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Vices, poor diet and stress are some of the things that make us unhealthy in both body and mind. You may not know it, but these bad habits can also hurt your eyes in one way or another. Fortunately, if you are committed to daily healthy lifestyle choices, you can preserve your vision and maintain optimal eye health.
Here are some tips:
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet of fresh and high fiber foods. Choose foods that can help boost your eye health, including oily fish like salmon and tuna, antioxidant- and Vitamin A-rich leafy vegetables like spinach and collard greens, citrus fruits, legumes and eggs.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If possible, stay physically active through regular exercise—this improves your physical and mental well-being, including your vision. Certain disorders associated with being overweight or clinically obese, such as diabetes and other systemic conditions, can lead to vision loss due to glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy.
- Quit smoking. This unhealthy habit has numerous adverse health effects, including the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other eye diseases that can lead to irreversible vision loss. Seek help from a doctor if you need help kicking the habit.
- Get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can lead to serious eyesight-related problems, including popped blood vessels resulting from eye strain and dry eyes caused by inadequate tear production.
Love Your Eyes
Avoiding these common habits that are hurting your eyes is just a part of what you should do to keep your eyesight and general eye health in good condition at all times. By scheduling regular visits to an optometrist, you can stay on top of any eye-related conditions you might have, allowing you to address them early and obtain the best outcome.
Regularly seeing your eye doctor, even if you don’t have serious eye issues, helps you keep track of any changes in the way you see. With the expertise of a local eye care provider like Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist, you can enjoy your best vision possible, regardless of your lifestyle or age.