Our eyes are pretty fragile, and even the slightest misstep on your behalf is bound to affect their health and subsequently - your eyesight, if not now, then further down the road. Environmental stressors, such as UV light, dry air and others can worsen your vision and contribute to eye disease, but so do excess strain and lack of sleep. Learn to preserve sharp vision for decades by avoiding these 15 bad habits capable of ruining your eye health.
Both air conditioning and central heating significantly dry out the air in a room, potentially causing a whole host of issues, especially dry eyes. And while having dry eyes doesn't seem very threatening, it is more dangerous than you'd think. For one, eyes devoid of a moisture barrier are more susceptible to infections. Dry eyes can also damage the surface of the eye, and chronically dry eyes can even worsen one's vision.
To deal with the issue, keep a working air humidifier in your bedroom overnight, or simply put a bowl full of water or two in your bedroom - this water will slowly evaporate, slowly increasing the humidity in the room.
2. Not Wearing Sunglasses
Similarly to why you need to use sunscreen when you go outside, you should also wear sunglasses on the regular to protect the surface of your eyes from UV damage. The truth is that the sun's rays are getting stronger and stronger, and constant UV exposure was proven to contribute to several eye diseases, namely eyelid cancer, cataract, and pterygium (a pinkish growth over the cornea). Doctors suggest wearing sunglasses year-round, even in the winter.
3. Using Makeup Remover Too Close to the Surface of the Eye
This is not to say that you should stop wearing eye makeup, or stop removing it from your eyes, but rather be wary of the products you use around the eye area and make sure not to get eye makeup remover inside your eyes. Eye makeup removers and face wash can contain a type of cleaning agent, a surfactant called benzalkonium chloride,which can irritate the surface eye and damage eye tissues, subsequently worsening your eyesight. Products intended for eye use and those that don't contain this ingredient are generally considered eye-safe.
4. Improper Use of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses require the strictest hygienic and medical guidelines to be safe for your eyes, you wear them directly on your eyes, after all. First and foremost, you should never sleep in your contacts or use them in water, as this can cause damage to the surface of the eye and severe, sometimes incurable, eye infections.
Some contacts are considered safe for sleep, but we wouldn't risk it anyway. Two other things we'd never risk is overusing contact lenses or using not medically-approved lenses, as in both cases, the risk of eye infection is just too high. Contacts can scratch your eyes and harbor bacteria, especially if they're not regulated - a recipe for disaster. Contact-related injuries and infection have been found to result in visual impairment in 20% of cases.
5. Sleep Deprivation and Apnea
According to medical research, your eyes require at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a daily basis to function properly and stay healthy. Overexertion may cause eye spasms (twitching), popped blood vessels, dry eyes, blurry vision, and itching eyes.
Even more serious health conditions are associated with sleep apnea sufferers, who are more likely than healthy people to develop glaucoma and can suffer from vision loss caused by a degenerative condition affecting the optic nerve called Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (AION).
6. Traveling by Plane
Here is one more reason to sleep on the plane, and it has everything to do with your eye health. The thing is that the recycled air on the plane is among the driest and most germ-ridden imaginable, so make sure to rest your eyes, preferably wearing an eye mask, while you're on the plane, especially on long flights.
If you're not careful, you can pick up and eye infection or a case of dry eye disease, and the risks are more than doubled for frequent travelers, so make your eyes a priority if that's about you.
7. Using Devices for Too Long
All screens are bad for your eye health, especially if you spend too much time in front of them, be it a computer screen, your smartphone or your TV. The reason behind is that concentrating on a screen for prolonged periods of time is just too strenuous for your eyes, and the resulting condition is the already familiar 'dry eye', of course, but also another condition called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), characterized by eyestrain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, blurred vision and dry eyes.
To prevent the development of CVS, set up your desk ergonomically, adjust the lighting and the brightness of the screen, and keep a healthy posture while using the computer.
Believe it or not, smoking can affect even your vision. In one study, participants who were smoking 20 or more cigarettes daily were shown to have worse color vision than those who didn't smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day. Smoking is also known to contribute to more serious eye issues, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy.
9. Sleeping With Eye Makeup On
If washing your eye makeup off is bad for your eyes if you're using the wrong products, not washing your eye makeup off is very harmful, always. People often don't realize how much dirt and buildup can accumulate inside their eyes, and this is especially true for eye makeup wearers. Those who don't remove their eye makeup are in an even worse situation, as they smear that gunk all over their eyes while they sleep.
While mascara, false lashes and eyeliner can cause eye infections, especially if you don't replace your makeup products regularly, glitter eyeshadow can cause microtears on the surface of the eye, so make sure you clean all the eye makeup from your eyes before you go to bed.
Eye injuries are no joke. Unlike a cut, a bruise or even a fracture, you won't be able to regrow an eye, which is why you should prioritize your eye safety whenever you're doing something potentially risky for your eyes. Such things include walking in the dark, carrying sharp objects, such as scissors, and doing yard work.
When it comes to yard work or home improvement, the easiest preventative measure is to simply wear protective eyewear, but when it comes to walking in the dark, you can just avoid the activity altogether. Also, be careful and don't make any quick or sudden movement when you have sharp objects in your hands.
11. Rubbing Your Eyes
Rubbing your eyes may give you temporary relief to allergies or tiredness, but try to abstain from it, and teach the little ones to do so as well, as eye rubbing can be quite bad for you. To be more specific, eye rubbing contributes to the development and worsening of a disorder called keratoconus, which is the thinning of the cornea.
This condition typically can result in blurry or double vision, astigmatism, nearsightedness, and light sensitivity, and it is especially common in kids.
12. Certain Medications
Unfortunately, many medications come with side effects that worsen your vision. For example, antihistamines, antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, birth control pills, and others can all cause eye dryness, whereas certain antibiotics, diuretics, and NSAIDs can result in sensitivity to light.
Other medications, e.g. asthma medications, Parkinson’s, and depression medications can increase the risk of glaucoma. If you are experiencing any eye or vision problems after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor to seek alternative treatments.
13. Overusing Eye Drops
If you need to resort to anti-redness or allergy drops more than the directions suggest or use it for prolonged periods of time, you might be actually suffering from another eye problem, most commonly dry eye, and to feel better, you'll need to address that problem with an eye doctor.
Over the counter eye drops are a fix for a brief problem, but prolonged use can do more harm that good, as your eyes get accustomed to the extra help and you might become addicted to the drops.
14. Poor Diet and Vitamin B Deficiency
Dietary deficiencies, the most common one being a vitamin B12 deficiency, can cause vision problems as well. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are common among vegetarians and vegans, and these can even cause blindness, in some cases. Instead, enjoy foods that your eyes will appreciate, such as:
Salmon, tuna, and nuts, high in omega 3 fatty acids
Eggs, high in B vitamins and protein
Leafy greens, e.g. kale and spinach, rich in lutein
Orange fruit and veggies, such as mango or carrots, which contain a lot of carotenoids.
15. Using Cheap Sunglasses
The fact that a pair of sunglasses are darkened doesn't mean they offer any or enough sun protection. Reputable brands will typically make UV reflection tests before selling a product to make sure your eyes are protected from the sun, as they should be. That's why we recommend you invest in a pair of sunglasses that offer proven UV protection to preserve your eye health and eyesight.