Eight bad habits that could be damaging your eyes

It’s crucial to be proactive when it comes to maintaining your eye health. Regular eye exams are essential, as they can detect conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) before they cause significant vision loss. However, it’s not just about the check-ups; your daily habits can significantly impact your eye health, often without you even realising it.

Here are eight everyday habits that could be putting your eyes at risk.

1. Smoking

You know smoking is bad for your lungs and heart, but did you know it’s also one of the worst offenders for your eyes? Smoking can double your risk of developing AMD, a leading cause of vision loss. 

The toxic compounds in cigarette smoke can lower the concentration of antioxidants in the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for clear vision. Smoking also decreases the oxygen supply to the delicate blood vessels that nourish the eye, which can result in vision damage.

The good news is that a review of studies shows that kicking the habit not only reduces the risk of AMD but, after 20 years, the risk of developing the condition is the same as it is for non-smokers.

2. Not getting your eyes checked regularly

Many people overlook the importance of regular eye exams, assuming that their vision is fine unless they experience noticeable symptoms of an underlying issue. However, routine eye check-ups are essential for detecting vision problems and eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts early on, when they’re most treatable.

3. Digital device overload

Excessive screen time can cause digital eye strain, a group of eye and vision-related problems that cause increased stress on near vision. Symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, fatigue, and blurred vision. 

We normally blink 15 to 20 times in a minute. However, studies show that this number comes down to only five or seven times per minute when looking at a screen. This results in insufficient lubrication and dryness of the eyes.

Michelle Andreoli, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says, “The two biggest concerns with onscreen habits boil down to chronic dry eye symptoms and disruption of natural sleep patterns.”

All digital screens emit blue light that can inhibit the production of melatonin and cause changes in your circadian rhythm, leading to disrupted sleep.

To reduce the negative effects of excessive screen time:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
  • Try not to use your phone for at least 20 minutes before you go to sleep. If you must use it, make sure the brightness is reduced.

4. Skipping the shades 

Just like your skin, your eyes need protection from UV rays. Wearing sunglasses year-round can help prevent cataracts, AMD, and even eye cancers. Make sure your sunglasses offer 100 per cent UV protection and consider wraparound styles for maximum coverage. Remember, even if you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, sunglasses are still a must.

5. Rubbing your eyes

While rubbing your eyes may provide temporary relief from itching, doing this can cause more harm than good. Rubbing your eyes forcefully can cause microtears in the delicate tissues of your eyes, leading to inflammation and redness. In some cases, this can even cause damage to your cornea.

Eye rubbing is the most common risk factor for keratoconus, a disorder that causes thinning of the cornea, leading to blurred vision. 

Instead of rubbing your eyes, try using eye drops to lubricate your eyes and reduce itching. If you experience persistent itching or irritation, consult an eye care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

6. Poor nutrition

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is important for maintaining good eye health. Diets high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats can cause diabetes, obesity and heart problems, all of which are major risk factors for eye diseases.

Incorporate nutrient-dense foods such as leafy green vegetables and fruits, along with seeds, nuts, and whole grains, into your diet. These foods provide vitamins and antioxidants that support eye health and protect against age-related vision loss.

Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E can help ward off age-related vision problems.

7. Sleeping with contact lenses

While it may be tempting to leave your contact lenses in overnight, sleeping in contacts can cause dust and bacteria to get trapped between the contact lens and the cornea, significantly increasing the risk of eye infections and corneal ulcers.

Your corneas do not have blood vessels. They obtain the oxygen required for metabolism from the surrounding air. Most contact lenses restrict oxygen flow to the cornea, causing it to respire without oxygen and creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth.

To prevent damage to your eyes:

  • Always follow the proper usage guidelines for wear and care of contacts.
  • Always remove your contacts before bedtime and place them in their solution.
  • Do not use damaged lenses and replace your contact lenses regularly.

8. Ignoring eye protection

Whether you’re doing home repairs, gardening, or playing sports, wearing the appropriate eye protection is crucial. Accidents can happen and preventing debris or impacts from damaging your eyes is always better than treating an injury.

By being mindful of these habits and making small adjustments, you can help preserve your vision and keep your eyes healthier for longer. 

How do you look after your eye health? Do you have any other tips for maintaining good eye health? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: Could my glasses be making my eyesight worse?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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