8 bad habits that could be damaging your eyes

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Lucy Hill
Eye Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
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14 January 2019

1) Sleeping with makeup on

This might seem like a harmless habit or even an unavoidable one if you work late or don’t have much energy at the end of the day; however it’s important that you always take your makeup off before you go to bed, to remove potential irritants and prevent bacteria from building up on and around your eyes.

When you sleep, your eyes take this opportunity to recover and clean themselves, which is why you might wake up in the morning with a bit of crusty discharge in the corner of your eyes. If you leave your makeup on overnight, this cleaning process can be disrupted and you could be at risk of developing an eye infection. So, make sure you use a gentle or sensitive makeup remover to give your eyes a good clean before you go to bed, and check out this blog for some top tips on how to keep your makeup eye-friendly.

2) Not drinking enough water

If you don’t drink enough water, your organs will suffer – and that includes your eyes! When you are dehydrated, your body will try to conserve as much water as possible, which means various parts of your body will be affected. You won’t be able to produce the tears required for lubricating and keeping your eyes clean, so you are more at risk for conditions such as eye strain and dry eyes if you are dehydrated.

Dry eye syndrome can cause irritation, blurred vision and swollen or painful eyes, so it’s definitely something you want to avoid! Read more about dry eyes here. Make sure you drink plenty of water if dry eyes are something you suffer from, and give our Extra Moisturising Eye Drops a try. 

3) Rubbing your eyes

Don’t make a habit of this if your eyes are itchy or irritated! Firstly, simply touching your eyes with dirty hands can spread bacteria and increase the risk of infections and conditions like styes. So, before performing your daily skin routine on your face or applying makeup, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.

Your eyes are very sensitive and are covered in tiny capillaries which are easily broken. Rubbing your eyes puts you at risk of scratching the surface of your eye or putting excess pressure on your eyes and potentially breaking these tiny blood vessels. If your eyes are itchy, try a cold compress instead: with clean hands, wet a clean washcloth or cotton pad with cold water and hold it on your eye for a few minutes. This is a much safer option than rubbing your eyes and potentially doing yourself some damage!

 

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4) Sleeping too little

You’re most likely aware that too little sleep at night can have a detrimental effect on more obvious aspects of your health like mood, but did you know that your eyes can suffer too? Lack of sleep can lead to redness, puffy eyes and the unsightly appearance of eye bags, as well as causing more difficult eye symptoms.

Lack of sleep can be responsible for dry eyes which, as I’ve already mentioned, can be an irritating and uncomfortable condition. Plus, not getting enough sleep at night can also result in involuntary eye spasms or twitches, called myokymia.1 This is thought to be down to the eye muscles not having the opportunity to properly rest themselves during sleep. Although these spasms are not dangerous or painful, they can be irritating and uncontrollable and can get in the way of daily tasks such as reading or driving.

So, it’s really important that you make sure to get your full 8 hours of sleep at night, not only to give yourself energy and improve your mood the following day, but also to give your eyes a chance to rest and replenish.

5) Eating the wrong things

When it comes to foods for your eyes, the obvious choices might spring to your mind (carrots, anyone?); however, there are also foods which aren’t so good for your eye health. Fatty snack foods are not only bad for your waistline; they could also have a long-lasting effect on your eyes too. Consuming too much of certain fats, like vegetable, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, can put you at higher risk for eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD occurs when the macula (the part of the retina responsible for centre vision) becomes damaged. Those who suffer from AMD gradually lose their central vision, with their vision either becoming blurred or blind spots appearing in the centre of their vision. Foods which have been found to increase the risk of AMD occurring include highly-processed junk foods such as chips, cakes, chocolate and crisps.2

In order to help prevent developing conditions such as AMD, it’s important to eat the right things. Foods containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, like oily fish, or fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins A and C are great for your eyes!

6) Smoking

Smoking, of course, can severely affect your health in many ways, but most people are unaware that smoking can also damage your eyes. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of vision-related eye diseases such as glaucoma,3 cataracts4 and age-related macular degeneration, with one study finding that smokers were 4 times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.5 The risk of these conditions is thought to increase with every cigarette you smoke so you should try to cut out this habit sooner, rather than later. If you’re looking for help to quit smoking, here are 10 self-help tips straight from the NHS.

Smoke in general can irritate and hurt your eyes, but tobacco smoke in particular contains so many chemicals that it can actually cause the protective layer of tears on your eye to break down!6 This can leave your eyes feeling irritated and painful, and can lead to symptoms of dreaded dry eyes. So, if you need another reason to stop smoking, do it to keep your eyes healthy!

7) Sleeping with contact lenses in

Sleeping with your contacts in might not seem like such a bad habit, and it may be something you do only occasionally – but even doing so once can lead to infection or even long-term complications. Your corneas (the clear surface of your eye) need oxygen from the air to stay healthy. When you wear contacts during the day, the oxygen supply to your eyes gets slightly smaller, which isn’t usually a problem because lenses are designed to let enough oxygen get to your eyes.

However, when you close your eyes to sleep, the oxygen supply decreases. Add a pair of contacts to the equation and you have a problem! Your eyes will swell without oxygen, allowing gaps to appear between the cells on the surface of the eye, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria beneath your contact lens – right on the surface of your eye! This is a sure way to bag yourself an eye infection, as your eyes are very sensitive and don’t have as strong an immune response as the rest of your body.7

If you accidentally fall asleep while wearing your contact lenses, make sure to give your eyes a break and wear your glasses for the next day or two. Also, make sure you use some eye drops to moisturise and protect your eyes. Unlike some other brands, our Moisturising Eye Drops can be used while wearing contact lenses!

8) Missing appointments with the optometrist

Finally, avoiding the optometrist is the last bad habit on my list. Even if you have never had glasses, it is important to visit an optometrist because you might either require a prescription for the first time, or need an update to your current prescription. 

Plus, an optometrist will also check your eyes for any signs of injury or disease – it’s not all about your vision! When you visit the optometrist, they will perform an eye exam using a few pieces of equipment:

  • A tonometer is used to blow a gentle puff of air onto the surface of each eye. This measures the eye’s internal pressure and allows the optometrist to check for risk of developing eye diseases. 
  • Digital retinal photography may also be used to take a photo of the back of your eyes which can be compared across future visits.
  • An ophthalmoscope is used to examine the retina at the back of your eyes as well as your optic nerve and its blood vessels to make sure things are healthy.
  • A slit lamp is a powerful microscope used to examine the cornea, iris and lens for any scratches or abnormalities.

Getting into the habit of ignoring appointments, then, can put you at risk of missing the early stages of eye diseases. It can be difficult to find the time to make appointments outside of work hours or if you have a busy lifestyle, but most high-street opticians are open during weekends and appointments can be relatively quick so they shouldn’t take up too much of your day off. It’s a small price to pay to keep your eyes healthy!

 

1https://www.essilorusa.com/newsroom/what-lack-of-sleep-does-to-eyes

2https://www.macular.org/junk-food

3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5228680/

4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1857475/

5https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/fullarticle/419696

6https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/smoking-dry-eyes

7https://greatist.com/grow/sleep-with-contacts-risks

 

 

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