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What Bad Things Damage My Eyes?

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AARP’s recent article entitled “The Worst Habits for Your Eyes” says that what might not be so obvious when it comes to eye health are the everyday habits that impact your eyes. The article lists six of the worst habits for your eyes.

  1. Smoking. In addition to irritating to your eyes, research shows that cigarette smoke also raises your risk of developing AMD (age-related macular degeneration). That’s an eye disease that can blur your central vision. People over age 55 are already at risk for the condition. However, an Australian study found that smokers have nearly four times the risk of late AMD than people who’ve never smoked. The smokers in the study developed the condition five years earlier, on average, than those who never smoked.
  2. Looking at your smartphone. The two biggest concerns with onscreen habits concern chronic dry eye symptoms and disruption of natural sleep patterns. Throughout the day, take a 20-second screen break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away. In addition, turn off your phone and put the laptop away in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  3. Failing to wear sunglasses. In the same way that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage your skin, it can also damage your vision. UV rays can damage the eye’s surface tissues, cornea and lens. Over time, that damage can lead to cataracts, AMD and cancers of the eye. You can also develop a sunburn on the eyes called photokeratitis, which can be extremely painful. To help prevent all of the above, wear sunglasses — and not just during the summer, but every day of the year, even on cloudy days. Make sure that your eyes are fully protected and they provide 100 percent UV protection.
  4. Sleeping with your contact lenses. The biggest issue is the risk of infection that can cause permanent scarring of the cornea and loss of vision. Those who forget to take them out, increase their risk for contact lens-related eye infections by six- to eight-fold.
  5. Rubbing your eyes. It’s not a big deal to occasionally rub your eyes. However, if you’re aggressive, you may damage your cornea, the clear, dome-shaped front surface of your eye. Some uncommon diseases of the cornea are linked to eye-rubbing, such as keratoconus, a condition that occurs when your cornea thins out and begins to bulge outward into a cone shape. As a result, your vision is blurry and distorted. If you’re looking for quick relief from redness, irritation, dryness and grittiness in the eye, it’s OK to rub your eyes. It’s better to use lubricating eye drops or place a hot washcloth over your eyes.
  6. Sleeping with your makeup on. Don’t make a habit of falling asleep with your eye makeup on because you’ll increase your risk of eye infection. This is most notably in the form of a stye, a painful lump that grows from the base of your eyelash or under the eyelid. Oil-based remover can also exacerbate some dry eye symptoms because they deposit a large amount of oil in the tears. You can use very mild face soap instead.

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Reference: AARP (Dec. 16, 2021) “The Worst Habits for Your Eyes”