Ever find yourself squinting at your screen after a long day of work, struggling to read words that appeared crystal clear earlier in the day? We feel you. Sometimes in life, we just know when we’ve worked our eyes a little too hard. And it’s not until things start to go out of focus or the itching and headaches kick in that we realise we’ve pushed it too far.
But it turns out, straining our eyes too often in such ways could actually be causing some long-term damage. And while you might think you’re pretty clued up on the sorts of things that cause your eyes to feel sore (hello too much screen time and hayfever), there are actually a whole bunch of daily habits that cause be causing your eyes damage without you even realising.
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Whether you’ve noticed your eye sight deteriorating or simply want to prolong your 20/20 vision for as long as possible, it’s worth brushing up on the things you’re doing everyday that could be damaging your vision. To help lift the lid on such issues, expert optometrist Roshni Patel BSC (Hons) MCOptom has conducted analysis with Lenstore to reveal the top eight eye-damaging habits and what to do instead…
1. Rubbing your eyes
When your eyes are irritated or tired, it’s all too easy to want to rub them. But while that can feel satisfying in the short term, it could be causing damage. Roshni explains there can be a risk for ‘keratoconus’, which involves the structure of the cornea weakening, making it unable to hold its shape. If you find yourself rubbing your eyes a lot, it’s worth investing in some eye drops specifically for irritation.
If you wear contact lenses, you’ll know the perils of accidentally falling asleep with them in all too well. However, falling into the trap of forgetting to remove them just once before you drift off can cause long-term damage.
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“Wearing lenses overnight can cause damage to your eyes and eyesight due to oxygen deprivation to the cornea, leading to blood vessel growth. The otherwise transparent cornea can become hazy, leading to reduced vision. A compromised cornea also means increased risk of infection and corneal ulcers,” says Roshni. To prevent yourself falling asleep with contacts in, try setting a reminder on your phone – especially if you’re going for a night out.
Similarly, showering or swimming with lenses in could cause issues. While it might seem harmless, it can significantly increase the risk of damaging infections. If you do need to wear lenses while swimming or showering, it’s recommended you use daily disposables and remove them as soon as you’re out of the water.
3. Spending too much time in front of a fan/air conditioning
On hot summer days, the sweet relief of a cold fan blowing directly onto your face can’t be beaten. However, both direct air flow from fans and air conditioning can be bad news for your eyes. Roshni explains: “Having cold air blown into your eyes can cause them to dry out and become scratchy and irritated. Instead, avoid having it pointed directly at you, so the air flow is away from your face.”
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4. Too much screen time
This one should come as no surprise. Especially since working from home, many of us have become very aware that long, hard days staring at screens take their toll on our vision. “Too much screentime can have an impact on our eyes. The reduced amount of blinking can cause our eyes to dry out and become tired quicker,” says Roshni. The answer? Screen breaks. “It’s best to take regular breaks to look at things further away. A great approach in the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet or more away. Small changes like this can really make a difference to your eye health,” she adds.
5. Not wearing sunglasses
Turns out, sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory. In fact, Roshni says going without them in bright sunlight leaves you at higher risk of “cataracts, AMD, pterygium and pinguecula”. The next time you feel yourself squinting in the bright sunshine, be sure to pop on some sunnies.
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6. Drinking too much caffeine
We know it’s boring to hear, but it turns out our eyes are just another thing our love for caffeine is bad for. Besides that caffeine-induced eye twitch and blurry vision you might be familiar with after having one too many coffees, it seems the more excessively you drink caffeine, the more serious and longer lasting the effects become, even increasing your risk of developing glaucoma. You know what to do: look for ways to lessen your caffeine intake wherever possible.
7. Not eating enough greens
Much like how caffeine intake can affect our eyesight, so too can other areas of our diet. “The best diet for your eyes is a normal, well-rounded diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables,” says Roshni. In particular, it’s good to have a diet rich in vitamin A. “Vitamin A, particularly from green, leafy vegetables like kale or broccoli, will help maintain heathy eyes. Sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins are also great,” she says.
If you’re worried that your eyesight isn’t as good as it should be, make sure you book in for an eye appointment. An optician should be able to help you find a solution (glasses or lenses) for your individual needs or recommend you see a GP should you need to.
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