5 Ways You Could Be Ruining Your EyesJune 29, 2017
Find out from Dr Anna Tan, consultant ophthalmologist of Singapore Eye Centre, some of the common lifestyle habits that damage your eyes and the scientifically proven ways to reduce your risks.
Excessive use of handheld devices
In children, excessive use of handheld devices and the lack of outdoor activities can increase the risk of myopia in young children. If myopia is undetected in young children and left uncorrected with the appropriate glasses, that can lead to the “lazy eye”. But here’s the good news. Contrary to popular belief, Dr Tan says that in adults, there is no evidence to show that constant technology use causes permanent eye damage, short-sightedness (medically known as myopia) or the “lazy eye”.
Rather, it causes less severe problems for your eyes and wellbeing. For example, it can lead to eyestrain that manifests itself through fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches. Your eyes are most comfortable when they are looking at far distances. When you look at things up close, your pupils get smaller, and muscles in the eye have to adjust the size of the lens to focus, causing your eye muscles to get tired.
Your eyes also blink less when you’re looking at things up close. This means tears evaporate more quickly and your eyes dry out. This can lead to itching and grit collection in the eyes, especially for contact lens wearers.
What to do:
Reduce the strain to your eyes by taking 20-second breaks from looking at the screen every 20 minutes. In these breaks, blink your eyes to keep them moist then look at something far away to give your eye muscles a break.
Neglecting eye safety
You might think accidents are unlikely but Dr Tan will attest to the number of patients she’s seen who have injured their eyes by not wearing eye protection. This includes safety goggles in situations where there is a high risk of foreign particles such as chemicals, radiation, and dust, and appropriate eyewear and headwear in situations where there is a high risk of traumatic injury.
These traumatic injuries can happen in the most seemingly harmless of situations, such as when you’re playing tennis or squash. The bones around your eye can help to protect your eye but small objects can hit the eye directly and do serious damage.
The other common mistake people make is not protecting their eyes from UV rays. Excessive UV light exposure can also increase your risk of developing common eye conditions such as cataract or pterygium, an eye growth usually found on the inner corner of eyes and can potentially obscure vision.
What to do:
Reduce the risk of injuring your eyes by wearing the appropriate protective eyewear. If you are working in an area that has flying particles, make sure your glasses have side shields. If you work with chemicals, goggles are a must. Play sport? Wearing protective polycarbonate eyewear can significantly lower your chances of injury. And for the day-to-day, make sure you wear sunglasses when you’re outdoors to protect against UV ray exposure.
Having a high fat diet
Even if you’re not overweight, a high fat-diet can increase your risk of age-related degenerative eye diseases. A diet that is high in fat produces the fat deposits that accumulate on the walls of your arteries. Over time, these fat deposits can thicken and harden the arteries. This reduces the blood flow as well as oxygen and nutrients it carries to the eye, increasing your chances of reduced vision.
What to do:
Not all fat are created equal, and some are worse than others. Minimise your intake of saturated and trans-fat. The former is primarily animal-based and usually found in dairy and fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Trans-fat is the worst type of fat, and can be found in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as deep-fried fast foods and processed snacks. Generally, cutting back on bad fat and exercising regularly can help significantly with long-term eye health. While you might be tempted to load up on commonly perceived eye health boosters such as fish oil and wolfberries, Dr Tan points out there is no published evidence of them preventing eye diseases. However, there is no harm in including them in your diet as they have other health benefits.
Most of us know smoking is bad for our health, but few are aware of the detrimental impact it has on your eye health. According to the American Academy of Opthamology, smoking increases your future risks for cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It also increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases, which have a detrimental effect on blood flow and oxygen delivery to your body, including your eyes.
What to do:
There’s no other way around this but to quit smoking. The good news is that after you quit, your risks for these eye diseases can fall to levels similar to people who have never smoked before.
Get this: there are between 10,000 and 10 million bacteria on each hand. Yet how many of us are guilty of touching or rubbing our eyes without washing our hands? Let’s not forget about other common unhygienic habits such as using expired makeup products, going to bed with a dirty face, showering in your contact lens, or worse, wearing your contact lens overnight.
Each time you practise poor eye hygiene, you introduce microbes to your eyes that can result in a range of touch-based diseases such as conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, inflamed and itchy eyelids, and in more serious situations, acanthamoeba keratitis – a painful infection caused by an amoeba that lives in common tap water that can potentially result in permanent damage to the cornea.
What to do:
As a general rule of thumb, make sure that anything that touches your eyes is clean, safe, and whenever possible, sanitised. This includes your hands, eye makeup, makeup brushes, and towels. For contact lens wearers, be disciplined – always make sure they’re clean, avoid swimming and showering in them, and always remove them before sleeping.