Four smiling colleagues are gathered at a desk, look at a computer screen.

8 everyday habits that can hurt your eyes

Spending all day in front of screens, rubbing itchy eyes, and even applying one too many eye drops all seem pretty innocent, but these can actually do more harm than good. Here are some common everyday habits that you may need to ditch for the sake of your eye health.

1. Staring at screens all day, every day

Digital eye strain is a condition that causes discomfort to your eyes after excessive screen time. While today’s reliance on technology makes limiting screen use a challenge - especially if you work in front of a computer - there are some ways you can minimize potential harm.

  • Good posture goes a long way: adjust the height of your chair accordingly, with your feet on the ground and eyes level to the screen, for an ergonomic workstation.
  • Play around with the display settings of your devices: a screen shouldn’t be a source of light (an illuminated screen in a dark room, for example), so decrease the brightness level. If you still notice discomfort, maximize the text size and adjust the contrast with the background. Black text on a white background (often the standard) is best for your eyes.
  • Similarly, reduce the blue light: digital screens usually display blue light, which is commonly linked to eye strain. When the sun sets, switch your phone to “night-time” settings, which emit orange and red tones instead, which is much easier on the eyes. The added benefit of this is better sleep, as research shows that too much blue light consumption up to one hour before bedtime can interfere with sleep. If possible, put down the phone altogether in the hour before bed and opt for a book or podcast.
  • Take breaks: use the 20/20/20 rule, which says that every 20 minutes, you should look away from your screen at a distance of 20 feet for at least 20 seconds.

2. Rubbing your eyes

Though eye-rubbing may provide you with temporarily relief, it can actually cause harm or injury to the eye.

  • Your hands come into contact with a lot of bacteria, and even frequent hand washing can’t get rid of all of the germs. By rubbing your eyes, you risk transferring the bacteria into them, putting them at risk of infection.
  • Rubbing your eyes when it feels like something is in them can lead to a scratch on your cornea. This is known as a corneal abrasion, and it is extremely painful. If you feel like there’s something in your eye and you’re having trouble getting it out, use natural tear eye drops to gently flush it out.
  • In rare circumstances, excessive eye rubbing can thin the cornea, leading to astigmatism or a degenerative eye condition called keratoconus.

3. Using expired eye makeup

When you wear expired eye makeup, you’re exposing your eyes to the harmful bacteria housed by your makeup. For example, mascara typically expires after just three months because the mascara wand collects bacteria; when the wand is reinserted into the bottle, the bacteria thrives in the cool, damp space inside the mascara tube. By using expired mascara, it can transfer this bacteria into the eyes and cause an infection. This is just one of many makeup dos and don’t’s.

4. Skipping out on your eye exams

You may think your eyes are healthy but the only real way to know for sure is to get them checked by a medical professional. Regular eye exams aren’t just great ways to check in on your existing eye condition, they can also scan for more serious eye diseases.

5. Poor contact lens hygiene

In order to save time, you forgo taking out your contact lenses before hitting the shower or curling up for an afternoon nap. During the summer, you leave them in your eyes before diving into the pool or lake. Sure, these techniques might save you some time but they all add to the risk of infection.

6. Choosing not to sport sunglasses

Sunglasses are a key accessory that complement any look. But did you also know that they’re vital in keeping your eyes safe? The sun’s rays are not only harmful to your skin, but your eyes too. Exposure to UV radiation can lead to eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or a condition known as pinguecula (a hard, white bump on the eye). When purchasing sunglasses, make sure to get a pair that blocks out 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

7. Over-using eye drops

When used in moderation, eye drops can administer important medication or provide you with soothing, temporary relief from dryness. But over-using redness-reducing eye drops can constrict the blood vessels and ultimately lead to even more redness, so be sure to apply them sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

8. Not wearing safety goggles when necessary

Some careers require employees to wear safety goggles, especially when the work takes place in environments where debris or dust can easily enter the eyes. Protective goggles can prevent both minor and serious injuries, from corneal abrasions to blindness. Keep in mind that they are effective in ways that regular prescription glasses are not, since they are regulated to ensure that they meet specific safety standards. Furthermore, if your regular glasses shatter, a shard could land in your eye, which would not only be painful but could lead to permanent vision loss.

Eye health and safety is extremely important, so make sure to follow the above steps to improve your daily quality of life and to prevent any long-term, serious damage to your eyes.