7 Bad Habits That Damage Your Eyes

Glasses have come a long way from the days of massive lenses that took over your face. The eye update stopped at fashion, though, because our attitudes about the health of our peepers is stuck in the past. People still spout the myths that sitting too close to the TV can damage eyes or eating an armload of carrots will guarantee spectacular sight, even though stories like one from ABC News have enlisted experts to prove they aren’t true.

While many of the activities we once thought would ruin our vision have turned out to be completely safe, some habits really can harm your eyes. Even something as small as leaving your sunglasses at home might make a difference. Protect your peepers by avoiding these eye faux pas.

1. Skipping your yearly exam

man getting an eye exam at the optometrist's office

Man getting an eye exam | Source: iStock

As annoying as heading to yet another appointment can be, your yearly visit to the optometrist is something you need to fit into your schedule. Even if you’ve had the same prescription for years, there’s always a chance things have changed. More importantly, eye doctors use sophisticated equipment to keep tabs on a lot more than just whether you can read a row of letters across the room. One optometrist told Reader’s Digest a lot of serious eye diseases can be detected before they’ve robbed you of your vision. If it’s been a few years, book an appointment.

2. Staring at your computer for too long

man sits at a computer while he works

Man working on a computer | Source: iStock

First things first, staring at a screen doesn’t damage your eyes the way many once thought. No amount of staring at a glowing computer is going to lead to rapid deterioration. Spending all day in front of a screen can lead to dryness, though. The Washington Post explained people don’t blink as frequently when reading from a screen, which means your eyes don’t get as much lubrication from tears. Since ditching your computer isn’t realistic, try to schedule breaks where you step away from your desk.

3. Soaking up the sun

man applying sunscreen to spend time at the beach

Man applying sunscreen at the beach | Source: iStock

Slapping on sunscreen before heading outside is only part of the equation when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun. If you’re skipping sunglasses, your eyes could suffer. Contrary to what you might think, it’s completely possible to get a sunburn on your eyes. It’s called photokeratitis and can lead to pain, blurred vision, and even temporary blindness, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Most people are lucky enough to avoid such a serious condition, but too much sun exposure can also occur over a longer period of time. One 2014 study found those who were exposed to the most ultraviolet rays over their lives were more prone to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

4. Smoking

man lights a cigarette in his mouth

Man lighting a cigarette |Source: iStock

While everyone knows about smoking’s ill effects on lung and heart health, few realize how closely it’s associated with eye problems. One 2005 review reported smoking is strongly linked to macular degeneration, which is typically irreversible. And the bad news doesn’t stop there. According to All About Vision, a cigarette habit could also lead to cataracts, blood vessel damage, and a disease called uveitis, all of which can lead to vision loss.

5. Leaving your contacts in overnight

close-up of a person holding a contact lens on the tip of their finger

Contact lens on the end of a finger | Source: iStock

Nearly everyone who wears contacts is guilty of snoozing without taking out their lenses first. Doing so is problematic, and not just because everything looks a bit blurry. The Huffington Post explained leaving your contacts in while you sleep doesn’t allow your eyes to get enough oxygen and can also up your chances of an infection. Even lenses designed for overnight use aren’t a good idea. WABC-TV New York reported one man temporarily lost vision in one eye due to an infection when using these types of contacts. The story said these types of infections may require eye removal if left untreated.

6. Using the wrong eye drops

young man dropping medicine in his eye

Man using eye drops | Source: iStock

Many eye drops are designed to mimic tears, so aside from the annoyance of having to break what your doing every so often, regular usage is completely fine. Unfortunately, not all eye drops are the same. In certain cases, doctors prescribe steroid eye drops to treat infections. Many people will simply stash the leftovers along with the rest of their medications, making it easy to mistake one bottle for another. According to Livestrong, overusing these eye drops can increase your risk of cateracts, glaucoma, and infection. To avoid confusion, get rid of the bottle once you no longer need the prescription.

7. Rubbing your eyes

man rubbing his eyes while he works on a laptop

Man rubbing his eyes in front of a computer screen | Source: iStock

This might be the only age-old wisdom about eye health that’s true. In extreme cases, you could end up with a painful cornea scratch. Everyday Health reported excessive rubbing can also lead to a nonstop itch cycle during allergy season or transmit harmful bacteria to your eye. If you know you have difficulty with allergies, try a cool compress instead. Whatever you do, keep your hands off.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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