8 everyday things you may be doing that can hurt your eyes (and what can be done about it)
Spending all day in front of screens, rubbing itchy eyes to try to soothe them, and even applying one too many eye drops all seem pretty innocuous, but if you’re doing any of these you may be causing harm to your eyes. Keep reading to find out other ways you may be harming your eyes, and what you can do instead.
1. Staring at screens all day, every day
Digital eye strain is a condition that causes discomfort to your eyes using staring at a screen for longer than two hours. 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 eyes level to the screen, for an ergonomic workstation that is easy on the eyes.
- Play around with the display settings of your devices: a screen’s brightness shouldn’t be a source of light (an illuminated screen in a dark room, for example). Decrease the brightness on your screen (most modern smartphones have this option). If you still notice discomfort, maximize text size. Also, the contrast with the background should be comfortable, especially if you’re reading long articles. 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, it’s important to switch on a setting that reduces the amount of blue light the eye consumes. Night-time settings instead emit orange and red light, which is much easier on the eyes. This has the added benefit of helping you sleep as research shows that too much blue light consumption up to one hour before bedtime can interfere with sleep. Instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed before bed, try putting the phone down an hour or so prior to bedtime and instead read a book or close your eyes and listen to a podcast.
- Take breaks: get to know the 20/20/20 rule, which says that every 20 minutes, you should stare away from your screen for a distance of 20 ft. for a minimum of 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 lots of bacteria, and even if you frequently wash your hands, it can’t get rid of all the germs. By rubbing your eyes, you risk transferring the bacteria into them, putting them in the line of fire for infection.
- Rubbing your eyes when it feels like there’s a foreign particle in there may temporarily help relieve you of the pain, however, doing so can wind up causing injury to your eye. Rubbing your eyes can cause the particle, whether it be an eyelash, dust, or something else, to scratch your cornea. This is known as a corneal abrasion, and it is extremely painful. If you feel like there’s a foreign substance in your eye, and you’re having trouble getting it out, natural tear eye drops are a better option as they can gently flush it out of your eye.
- Not convinced? Eye rubbing has been linked to the thinning of your cornea, which can lead to astigmatism or also 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. Mascara, for example, typically expires after just three months because the mascara wand collects bacteria, and then, when the wand is reinserted into the bottle, the bacteria thrives as the cool, damp pace is a suitable environment for bacteria to live. By re-using expired mascara, it can transfer said bacteria into the eyes, thus causing an eye infection. This is just one eye makeup faux-pas, but read about some other offenses here.
4. Skipping out on your eye exams
You may think your eyes healthy but the only real way to know for sure is if you get them checked by a medical professional. And the only way to do that is by booking an eye exam. Regular eye exams aren’t just great ways to check in on your existing eye condition or to see whether you suddenly developed myopia, but they can also scan for more serious eye diseases. Not sure yet? Read this for more reasons why you should.
5. Keeping your contact lenses in too long (or wearing them in the shower)
In an attempt 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, you may be buying some time, but leaving your contact lenses in your eyes in any of these situations can actually heighten the possibility of contracting an infection.
6. Choosing not to sport sunglasses
Sunglasses are a key accessory that complement any look. But did you know that your favourite shades are vital in keeping your eyes healthy? By now, you’ve surely heard about how harmful the sun’s rays may be to your skin, but the same can be said for your eyes. The sun’s rays can potentially lead to eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or a condition known as pinguecula (a hard, white bump on the eye).
Maybe you neglect wearing sunglasses because you like the way you look without them. But if you spend lots of time outdoors for work, than you may need to rethink that strategy and slip on some shades. But not just any pair will do: find yourself a pair that specifies that it blocks out 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays for optimal eye health.
7. Using (maybe over-using) eye drops
One way you may be causing harm is by using and over-using eye drops. Now, this may come as news to you--and fair enough--eye drops, when used in moderation, can provide you with soothing, temporary relief. But redness-reducing eye drops, when used in excess, can constrict the blood vessels which can ultimately lead to even more redness forming so be sure to apply them sparingly and only when absolutely needed.
8. Not wearing safety goggles when you should really be wearing safety goggles
Some jobs or careers demand its employees wear safety goggles, especially for people who work in environments in which debris or dust can easily enter the eyes. With good reason: protective goggles can prevent injuries, including minor ones like corneal abrasion to, in worst case scenarios, blindness. They are effective in ways that regular prescription glasses are not. Your everyday, corrective lenses don’t provide protection against flying debris. Even worse, if your regular glasses shatter then a shard could land in your eye which would not only be seriously painful but could mean permanent vision loss.
Safety goggles, however, are rigorously regulated to ensure they meet a standard that is safe and durable, able to withstand high-impacts to best keep your eyes shielded from potential harm. Usually, professions like plumbers, pipefitters, carpenters, and lab workers all need to wear safety goggles.
So remember, wearing just pair of glasses is not a substitute for your safety goggles.
Your next steps...
We can’t stress it enough: eye health is important, so by following any of the steps above, you can help improve how your eyes feel on a given day, while preventing any long-term, serious damage to them, too.