Most of us are not aware that some of our daily habits are potentially harming our vision.
Too much time looking at screens
We spend many hours looking at a screen — either a mobile phone, TV or computer. Prolonged staring at screens has been associated with eye strain and excessive exposure to eye damaging glare (especially if the lighting in the surrounding is inappropriate). Staring at screens can also lead to dry eyes and redness.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule:
Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet into the distance. Deliberately blink several times during this break. If need be, close your eyes for a minute or two. This allows for your eyes to rest, get lubricated and re-focus.
Unhealthy mobile phone use:
Using your phone or laptop in bed (or watching TV in bed) with the lights off puts unnecessary strain on the eyes. Setting your phone's font size too small and reading for prolonged periods has similar effects. In addition, keeping your screen brightness to maximum is also harmful to your eyes.
Sleeping with contact lenses Contact lenses cover the front of the eye (known as the cornea). This deprives this section of the eye from getting nutrients and oxygen. Although this is tolerable in the short term, it is not healthy in the long run. In addition to this, sleeping in your contacts leads to dryness of the eye and increases the risk of eye infections, ulcers and permanent eye damage. It is important that you give your eyes a break each night (at least four to eight hours without contact lenses daily).
Contact lenses for extended periods
Contact lenses are either designed to be changed daily, monthly or every three to six months (a few can be safely used longer). It is important that you adhere to these timelines to prevent unwanted complications.
If you wear contact lenses for an extended period than intended, they develop a thin layer of debri which can harbour germs and lead to eye infection and damage.
Wearing contact lenses in the pool or shower
Water can carry eye damaging bacteria and attach to your contact lenses leading to severe complications including blindness. Contact lenses should never be worn whilst swimming (even in the ocean) or showering.
Poor make-up habits
Sleeping with eye make-up or using old mascara/eye liner can lead to eye infection. Sharing eye make-up is also unacceptable. Bacteria can live on mascara brushes or eye liners and for this reason, it is recommended that you replace your eye make-up and application products every three months. Be very careful when applying make-up around your eye. If you put it too close to your lash line, it can block your oil glands and put you at risk of infection.
Not protecting your eyes
Swimming without goggles: Chlorinated or salty water can irritate the eye, therefore, it is important that you wear protection. Always wear goggles when swimming.
Poor quality sunglasses: The sun causes damage to the eyes so you must be careful in your choice of sunglasses. Only use sunglasses certified to have UV protection.
Persistent rubbing of your eyes can damage your cornea — causing it to thin, lose its shape and eventually distort vision. You also risk infection from the germs in your fingers.
In addition, constant rubbing can damage the skin and delicate blood vessels around your eyes leading to puffy dark eyes. For this reason, it is important to deal with the underlying cause of the itchy eyes. Start treating your allergies if they are the problem.
Smoking harms almost every part of your body — including your eyes. Smokers are four times more likely to lose their vision compared to people who do not smoke.
This risk is also present for people exposed to second hand smoke (people who are constantly in the environment of smokers).
Misuse of eye drops
Occasional use of eye drops to clear bloodshot eyes is not a problem. However, consistent use of drops to clear eye redness can have the opposite effect — lead to worsening of the redness.
Other health conditions
Diabetes, high cholesterol, HIV and high blood pressure can all cause problems for your eyes — including vision loss. For this reason, it is important that you get your long term health problems under control to protect your eyes.
Your eyes, just like the rest of your body, need vitamins and nutrients to stay healthy. Foods rich in vitamin A, C, E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are good 'eye healthy foods.' These nutrients can be found in leafy green vegetables, fish/seafood, nuts and fruits. In addition, it is important to take in sufficient water to prevent dehydration and help with tear production.
Missing eye check-ups
After the age of 40, it is crucial to go for regular eye checks. Similarly, anyone with a potentially eye damaging condition like diabetes or high blood pressure should go for an eye check.
It is also crucial not to ignore symptoms such as dryness or blurred vision (even if there are only subtle changes).