You make bad health decisions every day – and you’re likely aware of them. You know the impact of two slices of cake after an already big meal, neglecting regular workouts in favor of a sedentary lifestyle, and drinking that second scotch sour. But what about the small choices you make every day that impact your eye health? Some bad habits you know, and you’re probably blissfully unaware of the others.
If you knew exactly how your bad eye care habits impact your vision, would you change your routine? Get ready to see clearly (the error of your ways). Read on to learn seven things you do every day that can damage your vision.
1. Skip the Sunglasses
Remembering to bring sunglasses with you for your daily errands in the sun is a task in itself. The mantra “phone, wallet, keys” doesn’t exactly include eye care. If you are one of the few who never leaves the house without them: congratulations. Your eyesight thanks you. However, it’s important to note that all sunglasses are not created equally. Bringing the right type of sunglasses, every time you go outside, is essential for protecting your vision.
According to Eye Care America, the foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “spending long hours in the sun without eye protection can damage your eyes by contributing to cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths on the eye, including cancer. Based on these studies, ophthalmologists recommend that you wear 99% and above UV-absorbent sunglasses.” Sunglasses with an amber tint are better than blue tinted because they block blue sunlight which also damages the retina. If you work outside, sunglasses are a must. But that doesn’t mean you should skip them when you step out for an hour or two. Sun damage builds up over time.
2. Sleep Without Removing your Contacts
We’ve all been there. Watching your favorite shows before bed is a familiar routine, but stay up too late and you might find yourself falling asleep on the couch – with your contacts seemingly super glued to your eyes the next morning. Underneath all the itchy and unpleasant build up that comes with falling asleep in your contact are real eye issues that can affect your vision. Even for lenses that are approved for sleep, bacteria can cling to the lens and cause eye infections, and in worst cases, corneal ulcers.
Sleeping with your contacts in reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your cornea causing growth of abnormal capillaries as the eye struggles to replenish oxygen deficiencies.
3. Get Too Little Sleep
It’s possible you also spend too much time in front of the tube and not enough time sleeping. Lack of sleep can also cause vision problems–most of which are temporary, but still inconvenient. According to a study on sleep deprivation that focused on participants’ vision, cognitive processing can impact vision. Lack of sleep can impair cognitive processes.
The study concluded, “Sleep deprivation may differentially impair processing of more-detailed visual information. Features of the study design (e.g., visual angle, duration of sleep deprivation) may influence whether peripheral visual-field neglect occurs.” It is possible to get relief from this temporary impairment by re-evaluating your sleep schedule.
Your parents likely fed you the old myth about staring at screens in the dark, and how it’s harmful to our vision. Perhaps, they didn’t want you to fall asleep on the couch. While there is no evidence that directly links bright screens in dark rooms to vision health, another association is possible.
Studies have found that looking at electronic devices with bright screens before bed can disturb your brain’s release of dopamine, which can influence your sleep patterns. Since we already know that sleep issues can cause temporary vision problems, it’s possible that viewing electronics before bed contributes indirectly to these issues. Limiting your screen time before bed can help you get your sleep patterns and your vision back on track.
5. Stare at Your Smartphone
One study found that the closeness of the screens we use may contribute to eye issues as well. This issue relates to looking at screens before bed too. One study found, “Holding smart phones at such short distances can place increased demands on the eyes’ ability to correct for distance, which is known as accommodation. Short distances can also increase demand on the coordination between eyes, or vergence, compared with the distances typically used when reading printed text.”
Long-term effects include eye strain, which could result in acute loss of vision. In this modern world, it’s difficult to cut down on small screen time. However, when possible, make an effort to use a larger device – especially if the information you’re viewing is full of text as opposed to images.
6. Smoke Cigarettes
According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH), there’s a strong correlation between eye disease and smoking. If you can’t find a suitable reason out of the many other health issues associated with smoking, consider the nasty effects it has on your eyes.
Cataract and Glaucoma are two major diseases that cite smoking as a risk factor. For example, “Heavy smokers (15 cigarettes/day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataract as nonsmokers,” NYSDH notes.
7. Don’t Check your Medications
Research your prescriptions – even over the counter medications. It could save your eyes. WebMD reports that some medications can cause light sensitivity and dry eyes. While light sensitivity can be temporary, long-term, chronic dry eyes can degrade the surface of the lens or cornea – and as you now know corneal damage can impact your vision. Both prescription and non-prescription drugs can cause or contribute to birth defects, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
The following types of medications can affect your vision:
- Acne medication
- Antimalarial drugs
- Erectile Dysfunction Drugs
- Many more
Talk to your doctor if you suspect your poor vision is due to the use of prescription drugs. Keep in mind, some side effects are reversible, while others may be the result of long-term damage.
You can never start too soon with taking care of your eyes. In many cases, relief is just around the corner. What’s your worst eye care habit? How do you plan to change?