These Everyday Habits Could Hurt Your Eyes And Vision

Almost 80% of our first impressions come from eyesight. In a survey by Research!America, participants rated blindness as the worst ailment that could happen. And there are some everyday habits that can ruin your eyesight over time.

Mindless actions, such as rubbing your eyes and applying makeup, could harm your eyes in the long run. According to doctors, these actions could heighten your risk of eye disease or hasten the onset of age-related macular degeneration. To keep your vision sharp, correct these bad habits.

Limit Screen Time

A teenage girl texts in her bed in the dark.
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Getty Images

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye doctors are seeing more and more kids with eye strain from too much screen time. Plus, nearsightedness has been on the rise since the 1970s. Screen time is at least partially responsible for this trend of vision decline.

In 2014, researchers found that kids who spent a lot of time indoors are more likely to develop nearsightedness. While the causes aren’t confirmed, researchers suggest that screen time could strain our eyes over time. For the sake of your eyes, try spending less time on your computer, phone, or TV.

Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses

The Thai Royal Palace is reflected on the sunglasses of a tourist.
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Although you may feel fine in bright weather without sunglasses, your eyes can still suffer. Like your skin, your eyes can burn. This condition is called photokeratitis, and according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it can result in temporary vision loss. A common form of photokeratitis is snow blindness.

In 2014, researchers analyzed how UV rays from the sun impact eye health. They concluded that more UV exposure makes people more likely to develop cataracts. Those who didn’t wear sunglasses also receive age-related macular degeneration earlier in life.

Don’t Over-Use Eye Drops

An athlete puts in eye drops.
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GERRY PENNY/AFP via Getty Images

Lubricating eye drops can temporarily help your dry eyes, but too many eye drops will do the opposite. “More is not necessarily better,” says Dr. Stephanie Marioneaux, an ophthalmologist. “Better technique is better.” In other words, take the eye drops as prescribed or recommended.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over-using eye drops can cause your eyes to itch or swell. This risk heightens if the eye drops have artificial preservatives, which can prompt allergic reactions in some people. Always buy preservative-free eye drops and use them as directed.

Don’t Rub Your Eyes When They Itch

A man rubs his eyes to assuage an itch.
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Unsplash/@gunaivi

Rubbing your eyes may seem like an everyday occurrence. It encourages tears to flow, which can lubricate and clean your eyeballs. But according to Vision Eye Institute, rubbing your eyes can break tiny blood vessels, which lead to dark circles. Plus, the germs on your hands hop onto your eyes.

According to a 2015 study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology, consistent eye rubbing also thins your cornea. Over time, this can scratch and weaken your eyes. It may even contribute to a degenerative condition called keratoconus.

Apply Makeup Carefully

A woman applies black eyeshadow.
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Vyacheslav ProkofyevTASS via Getty Images

Every time someone applies makeup, they pose a risk toward their eyes. Ophthalmologists recommend only applying makeup on a clean face. Also, avoid covering the lash line with makeup. On the lash line, there are glands that secret healthy oils for the eye’s surface.

If makeup has expired, stop using it. Expired products have a high chance of bacterial growth, which could lead to conditions such as conjunctivitis. Remember to wash makeup brushes and sponges frequently for this same reason.

Wear Goggles While Swimming

Russian athlete Aleksandr Popov swims with goggles on.
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Franck Seguin/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Whether or not you open your eyes underwater, swimming without eye protection could harm your vision. Chlorine and other chemicals damage tear film, the thin layer that coats the surface of the eyes. Doctor of Optometry Arthur Kobayashi says that eyes can become red from irritation.

Both chlorine and saltwater can harm your eyes over time. When you go swimming, wear some goggles. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends rinsing your closed eyes with fresh water after swimming. This will clean the chemicals out of your eyes.

Avoid Staring At The Sun, Even When It Doesn’t Hurt

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Some people can handle staring at the sun during a foggy day, sunset, or a solar eclipse. Even if it doesn’t hurt, looking at the sun can still damage your eyes. According to ophthalmologist Dr. Joseph Chacko, sunlight can burn our retinas and scar them. This is called solar retinopathy.

Over time, looking at the sun may prompt vision loss or blurriness, says UAMS Health. If you watch the sun through an unfiltered lens, such as binoculars or a telescope, you’ll still hurt your eyes. And it may take over 12 hours for symptoms to occur.

Buy The Right Sunglasses

A customer tries on sunglasses in a Hot Topic.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sunglasses protect the eyes from damaging UV radiation. At least, some sunglasses do. Dr. Rachel Bishop says to buy sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UV rays. Otherwise, sunlight can cause cataracts and destroy the retina, the lining in your eyes that helps you see clearly.

Also, ensure that the sunglasses fit well. Fraser Horn, an optometrist, says, “I don’t want it up touching the eyelashes, but I also don’t want it pushed way out. And I want something that lines up with your brow.”

Wear Your Glasses (Trust Us)

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Unsplash/@susandurano07

According to a 2013 Nigerian survey, 64% of people believe that wearing glasses makes their eyesight worse. They assume that wearing specs makes our eyes rely on our glasses, gradually worsening vision. But all evidence points to the contrary; not wearing your glasses will make your vision worse.

The longest-ever study on wearing glasses spanned 23 years. During that time, researchers compared children who frequently wore spectacles to kids who rarely wore them. Those who sporadically used their glasses had more elongated eyeballs, and their vision became worse. If you have prescribed glasses, wear them as prescribed.

Never Sleep With Contacts In

A person holds a pair of contact lenses.
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Sure, removing contacts can feel like a pain at night. But sleeping with contacts in can harm your eyes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, keeping contacts in may raise your risk of an eye infection. Even for multiple-day wear contacts, the FDA recommends replacing them at least once a week.

How do contacts hurt your eyes? Contacts stop oxygen from reaching your cornea, which may cause new blood vessels to form. This condition, called corneal neovascularization, may prevent your contacts from fitting. In bad cases, this condition prevents people from ever wearing contacts again.

Sleep As Long As You Need

A woman with messy hair yawns while sitting up in bed.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Have your eyes ever felt dry after a restless night? This is common, and if you consistently don’t get enough sleep, your eye health may suffer. Sleep replenishes your eyes with fluid circulation; if you don’t sleep often, blood vessels in the eyes could pop.

In 2019, researchers examined over 6,700 participants to see how sleep impacted vision. They found that getting too little sleep raises the risk of glaucoma. On the flip-side, getting too much sleep (over 10 hours per night) also heightens the risk. Shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

The Safe Way To Remove Makeup

A model cleans makeup off her eyes.
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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

At the end of a long day, it may be tempting to slap a makeup removing wipe to your face and rub. But these could damage both your skin and eyes, according to dermatologist Rachel Nazarian. Instead, gently rub the wipe or pad in circles to remove the makeup slowly.

If you have to rub your eyes to remove makeup, says Dr. Nazarian, you need to find a new product. Dermatologist Melissa Levin says that harsh rubbing can not only irritate your eyes but also create wrinkles.

Don’t Sleep With Makeup On

In the 1970s, a woman sleeps with makeup on.
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Pinterest/SLUFOOT

As tempting as it is to ignore eye makeup and crawl into bed, don’t sleep with your makeup still on. “Mascara and eyeliner can be rubbed by your pillow and end up in your eyes, which can lead to significant eye irritation,” said Dr. Eric Schweiger, the founder of Clear Clinic.

In an interview with HuffPost, Dr. Schweiger explained that makeup might clog oil glands in your eyelids. Over time, bacteria may build-up to create inflammation or small bumps called hordeolums. To prevent this, keep some makeup wipes near your bed.

Are You Using The Right Eye Drops?

An athlete puts in eye drops.
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MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

Drug stores contain shelves upon shelves of different eye drops. And, yes, it matters which one you choose. Certain brands are designed for specific eye ailments, and if you use the wrong one, you could make your condition worse, according to VSP Vision Care. Never use prescription eye drops for non-prescription issues; these drops often contain steroids that heighten your risk of glaucoma and cataracts over time.

WebMD divides over-the-counter eye drops into three categories: artificial tears, allergy drops, and anti-redness drops (sometimes called decongestants). Artificial tears relieve dry eyes, whereas decongestants narrow blood vessels to soothe red eyes. Allergy drops are self-explanatory.

Remember To Attend Eye Doctor Exams

An Optician exams eyes with an ultraviolet lamp.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

According to a survey by VSP Vision Care, 84% of people consider vision to be their most crucial sense. But only half of those participants receive regular eye exams. Dr. Mei Fleming stresses the importance of vision appointments. Eye exams regularly check patients for cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and vision strain.

PreventBlindness.org recommends receiving an eye exam every two to four years if you’re between 20 and 64 years old. If you or a family member has a previous eye condition, get a vision appointment more often.

Stay Hydrated

A woman drinks from a water bottle while driving.
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Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Our eyes constantly need moisture to function. If we become dehydrated, our vision will suffer. According to Florida Eye Specialists, dehydration could dry out your eyes. Over time, this could strain your eyesight, which in turn results in headaches or blurry vision.

In 2015, a study in Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology analyzed hydration’s effect on eye health. According to the researchers, dehydrated participants experienced worse eye health than hydrated participants. People with chronic eye conditions or undergoing surgery had to remain hydrated for the sake of their vision.

Remember To Eat Enough Vitamins

Red and yellow bell peppers stand in a line.
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Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Although many people may not connect food to vision, your diet can worsen your eye health over time. In particular, vitamins A, C, and E may delay vision decline. Ophthalmologist Dr. Ivana Kim explains that free radicals damage our eyes. By eating antioxidants, we can protect the eye’s retina and macula.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, foods with vitamins A, C, and E include nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Red, orange, and yellow produce often contain high amounts of antioxidants. You can also receive some vitamin E from wheat.

Don’t Ignore Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Golden omega-3 supplement capsules are seen.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The photoreceptors in our retinas run on docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. These acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can protect our eyes from damage. Over time, this could slow down macular degeneration and keep our vision strong, according to Harvard Health.

Although some doctors recommend omega-3s for eye health, studies have had contradicting results. In 2014, a report in Clinical and Epidemiologic Research noted that people with macular degeneration have fewer omega-3s in their bodies. One year later, another study concluded that increasing omega-3 does not affect eye health.

Put It Out

Two people walk away from a public ashtray.
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Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lighting up can escalate health complications, but some people don’t know that it worsens your eyes, too. According to the New York State Department of Health, smoke heightens your risk of cataracts, dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration.

In February 2019, a study published in Psychiatry Research detailed how smoke harms the eyes. Lighting up dries out the eyes and damages blood vessels and neurons in the retina. Over time, it also causes brain lesions, which mess with the way our brains interpret vision.

Wearing Non-Prescription Contact Lenses

A woman puts in colored contact lenses.
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Fashion lenses, also called cosmetic or theater lenses, have risen in popularity. They can change a person’s eye color for a costume or simply an everyday look. The problem is that these lenses aren’t made to fit your eyes. “Poorly fitting lenses can lead to surface damage which, in some people, can lead to vision loss,” says ophthalmologist Dr. Rebecca Taylor.

Wear commercial fashion lenses sparingly. If you want to use colored lenses frequently, buy them from a licensed provider. These may be more expensive, but they won’t harm your eyes.