On a daily basis, optometrists treat patients who experience eye issues that can often be easily avoided. There are several common eye-harming habits that patients rarely even realize they are doing. In short, it’s easy to take your vision for granted.
To mark Healthy Vision Month, we chatted with a panel of FYidoctors optometrists, all of whom shared several things they wish their patients would stop doing. We’ve compiled 10 widespread habits that hinder vision health, with the goal of encouraging people to be more mindful about how their daily practices might impact their eyes.
Sharing eye drops with friends, family members or partners is a big no-no, as it can transfer eye infections and other unwanted germs from person to person. This rule encompasses any type of eye drops, including artificial tears, redness-relieving solutions, or allergy medications.
Did you know that wiping your lenses without water or an eyewear cleaning spray can damage your glasses? Although most glasses (including all that are sold by FYidoctors) come with a scratch-resistant coating, they are not truly scratch-proof. If you rub your lenses without proper lubrication, you could be grinding microscopic debris directly into the lenses and creating permanent scratches and scuffs.
Optometrists can all agree that too much screen time can cause dry, irritated eyes. When staring at a screen, people tend to blink less, which can spur eye strain, loss of focus flexibility, nearsightedness, and in some cases, retinal damage.
The best way to mitigate screen-induced eye damage is to take regular breaks. Our optometrists encourage patients to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to stretch out and shift their focal range.
Studies show that consuming excessive quantities of sugary, starchy foods can increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). On the flip side, there are countless vision-boosting foods—such as leafy greens, sweet potatoes, yogurt, citrus and salmon—that are packed with the nutrients your eyes need to thrive.
Whenever you step outdoors, regardless of the season, wear sunglasses if it’s sunny. UV exposure increases the risk of various eye conditions, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and photokeratitis—which is akin to a sunburn on your eye. Shades (and hats!) are an easy and stylish way to shield your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. You can shop FYidoctors’ collection of the latest sunglass styles here.
Speaking of shades, in certain contexts, eye protection is necessary to stave off more than just sun damage. When doing yard work or other potentially dangerous activities— such as electrical work, plumbing, carpentry and auto repair—safety eyewear is essential. If you are potentially being exposed to dust, small particles or flying objects, wearing safety glasses with side shields is of the utmost importance.
According to Dr. Ben Wild, rubbing your eyes can lead to thinning of the cornea and keratoconus, which can ultimately result in irreversible vision loss. Not to mention, excessive eye-rubbing can also create bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and wrinkles.
To relieve tired eyes, don’t rub; instead, “use artificial tears and cold compresses,” suggests Dr. Tanya Flood.
As Dr. Michael Kaplan aptly points out, “most contact lenses are not approved for sleeping,” and therefore should never be worn overnight. “When the eyes are closed and they have a lens on them, the cornea does not receive sufficient oxygen and the lenses may tighten up and cause damage to the eye when attempting to remove them,” he said.
If you’ve ever woken up wearing contact lenses, you know it’s not a good feeling. Set a reminder for yourself each night to remove your contact lenses—trust us, it’s well worth the hassle.
On the subject of contact lenses, there’s another bad habit people have: reusing daily lenses, and overwearing contacts in general.
“Monthly disposable lenses are made to withstand a month's worth of wear and tear from blinking, from debris in the tears and from the preservatives in the contact lens solution,” Dr. Wild explains. “Overwearing contacts can result in permanent contact lens intolerance due to a rash that can form on the inside of the eyelids, can lead to permanent vision loss via infection, and can actually alter the metabolism of the cornea by blocking oxygen transmission.”
That’s why it’s essential to track the lifespan of your contact lenses, and ensure you aren’t overextending them once they’ve expired. Also, keep in mind: a monthly lens is only good for one month after opening the case, regardless of how many times they are worn that month.
And as a final word on contact lenses, “please, for the love of everything good, stop licking your contact lenses to lubricate them,” Dr. Mistry quips. “What's in your mouth should not go on your eyes. Would you let someone else lick your eyes? No? Exactly.”
Remember, optometrists exist for a reason. Patients too often self-diagnose eye conditions, and fail to seek the attention of a medical professional—which can have dire consequences on their vision health in the long run.
“It could turn out to be more serious than you think. Let your optometrist examine your eyes with the advanced equipment, skills and knowledge to solve the problem,” Dr. Kaplan says.
In fact, self-diagnosing and medicating could actually make matters worse: “Many over the counter treatments can cloud a diagnosis, and even cause greater problems. Without knowing exactly what kind of issue is present, you don't know whether the eyes require an antibiotic, a steroid, or simply an artificial tear.” Dr. Mistry explains. “Whether it be an eye infection, foreign body in the eye, or vision getting blurry, go in to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Waiting can take an issue from a solvable and quick fix to a catastrophic problem with lifelong vision complications.”
Our other optometrists firmly agree. Even if a patient isn’t experiencing any eye concerns, they should still get regular eye exams.
“Stop assuming because you see well that you don't need an eye exam. While many eye conditions/diseases do affect vision they are the minority. Most eye conditions/diseases do not affect vision at first and can also be prevented with proper treatment,” Dr. Wild cautions.
Dr. Mistry also points out that the eyes can offer critical insight into a person’s overall well-being, and therefore, regularly visiting an optometrist is important for more reasons than one.
“Many patients will tell me they have no health conditions, until things like diabetes and hypertension show up on our scans,” he says. “One of my favorite aspects of the eyes is that we get a window into the rest of the body.”
Scheduling regular eye exams is a key way to dodge eye disease, and ensure your overall health stays in tip-top shape. Book a comprehensive eye exam today at an FYidoctors clinic near you!