An ophthalmologist explains how common habits, like excessive screen time or rubbing your eyes, can impact your eyesight more than you think.
Many people don’t immediately think of eye care when they think about their health. However, your everyday habits can actually affect your eye health a great deal and, without proper precautions and care, can lead to problems with your eyesight.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Raymond Girgis discusses six everyday habits that could hurt your eyesight:
1. Lack of Proper Eye Protection
Protecting your eyes against UV rays from the sun is extremely important. “This is the first thing I tell patients—everyone should wear sunglasses outside, even children,” says Dr. Girgis. Wearing sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection is necessary to protect your eyes, and polarized sunglasses are even better, as they diminish the effect of glare which causes eye strain and fatigue.
However, not all sunglasses can provide equal protection. It’s best if they’re kept in good condition. Dr. Girgis says, “Once your lenses are scratched, they’re no longer protecting your eyes. You should inspect your sunglasses periodically to make sure they’re in good shape, so they can fully protect your eyes from harmful rays.”
2. Eye Dryness
Dry eye syndrome is very common, especially as we age. Regularly hydrating and lubricating your eyes can help keep this at bay.
Whether your eyes feel scratchy, irritated, dry, or you feel a “foreign body sensation” in your eye (like something is in there, even if it is nothing), it’s important to respond to this discomfort, says Dr. Girgis. “If not, damage can slowly occur on the surface of the eye, which, over time, can progress and cause symptoms like worsening dryness or discomfort,” he explains. “When it’s advanced, this eye damage may even impact vision.”
To protect the surface and lubricate the eye, Dr. Girgis advises using artificial tears or eye drops, which you can find over-the-counter in any drugstore.
3. Screen Time
Screens — on your TV, tablet or phone screen — are culprits for causing eye strain, sensation of having dry eyes and fatigue, especially phone screens, as they are smaller and typically held closer to our faces. “I frequently hear complaints from patients with eye fatigue due to how much time they spend on their screens, whether at home, at work or both,” says Dr. Girgis.
To reduce eye strain and long-term eye discomfort, you should limit your extended screen time and practice these habits:
- Ensure proper lighting and limit bright screen usage in dark rooms.
- Don’t hold your device too close to your face. Keep it at a comfortable distance of 20-22 inches.
- Give your eyes a break periodically from up-close focus. Routinely look up from your device and look around the room, at a distance.
- Make sure you are in a comfortable position when seated and using screens for long periods of time. Being comfortable will help reduce any additional stress on your body that can further strain your eyes.
4. Rubbing Your Eyes
When we talk about protecting your eyes from unnecessary or avoidable damage and trauma, it doesn’t just refer to construction or outdoor work and house projects. “I strongly discourage people from rubbing their eyes. It’s been found that rubbing your eyes harshly or on a regular basis breaks down the connective tissue in the cornea of the eye, causing damage to our eyesight over time,” adds Dr. Girgis.
5. Wearing Old or Inexpensive Makeup
Cosmetics may not seem like a risk for eye health, but any makeup you place around your eyes has an impact. Products you use around the eyes and eyelid margins should be hypoallergenic and free of the harsh ingredients usually found in cheaper makeup brands.
“Eye makeup should be replaced every three to four months, because it typically gets contaminated over time by bacteria on your skin when you use your hands or makeup brushes to apply it,” says Dr. Girgis. “I recommend buying a little bit of hypoallergenic eye makeup at a time, so that it is always fresh.”
Some of smoking’s many health risks include eye complications. When your eyes are frequently exposed to smoke, you run the risk of developing disorders that blur and cloud vision or lead to vision loss, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and ocular surface disease.
“We encourage patients who already have, or are at risk for, macular degeneration, to limit their smoking and focus on a diet full of antioxidants, such as salmon and tuna, fruits and berries and green leafy vegetables<” says Dr. Girgis.” These nutrients can help reduce the chemicals that cause this disease.”
If you’re concerned about your eyesight, or have experienced any of the symptoms above, an ophthalmologist can perform an evaluation to assess your overall eye health. Otherwise, it’s key to practice healthy habits daily that protect your eyes and schedule regular eye exams.
[Main photo credit: iStock.com/Su Arslanoglu]