Are You Overlooking Your Eyes?
They're easy to take for granted, but your vision is too important for that. It might be time to take a closer look at your eye-care routines to see if you’re doing more harm than good.
You Don't Get Annual Eye Exams
It's a good idea to see your eye doctor each year to make sure all is well, especially once you're over 40. They'll check how well you can see, and they might put drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, your pupils to help them to check for serious issues like glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, or macular degeneration.
How often you'll get the drops depends on things like your:
- Overall health
- Family medical history
You Ignore Irritated Eyes
Red, watery eyes that itch or burn can be a telltale sign of allergies. But you may have an infection if they also:
- Feel gritty
- Are sensitive to light
- Have a thick or mucus-like discharge
It's important to see your eye doctor right away if you notice any of those symptoms. An untreated infection can damage your eyes. You can spread it to people around you, too.
You Don't Get Eye Injuries Checked Out
Even if it doesn't seem like a big deal, see your eye doctor as soon as possible if anything happens to your eyes. It's especially important if you:
- Have trouble seeing
- Feel pain or discomfort in or around your eye
- Can't open your eye
- See blood in the white of your eye
- Can't move one eye as well as the other
- Notice that one pupil is larger or shaped differently than the other
You Forget to Wear Sunglasses
Your "shades" protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Those rays can make you more likely to have cataracts at a younger age, macular degeneration, or a condition called pterygium (when tissue grows over the white part of your eye). Look for sunglasses that block out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays.
You Rub Your Eyes
This can irritate them and damage blood vessels. It can also make whatever is troubling you worse. Your hands constantly pick up germs that don't need to be anywhere near your peepers. Make sure your hands are clean if you need to touch your eyes.
You Spend Too Much Time on Screens
Getting up close and personal with your computer, tablet, or even your smartphone works your eye muscles. Long periods of screen time can make your eyes tired and cause headaches. The 20-20-20 rule is an easy way to keep that from happening: Look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. And blink often to keep your eyes moist. At the office, anti-glare protection on your computer screen can help, too.
You Skip Contact Lens Care
To keep your eyes healthy, clean your contacts with the solution your doctor recommends -- never water or saliva -- and store them in a proper case. (Change out the case every 3 months.) It's also really important to take them out before you go to bed. If you wear disposable ones, switch them out as your doctor recommends.
You Shower in Your Contacts
A hot shower can feel great, but it's not great for your contact lenses. They can mix with germs in the water, and that can lead to infection. To prevent any problems, take your lenses out before jumping in. Or if you have daily disposable lenses, make sure to throw them away afterward or at the end of the day.
You Leave Makeup On
Leftover particles of mascara, eyeliner, or eye shadow can fall into your eyes and lead to infection. It's important to take off eye makeup completely every night. If your eyes are red and start to hurt, see your doctor right away.
You Don't Wear Safety Glasses
The right protection is key to prevent eye injuries when you're working around the house or playing sports. Depending on what you’re doing, you might need:
- Safety glasses or goggles
- A safety shield
- Eye guards
Before you start a new activity, do a bit of homework to make sure you cover all the bases to keep your eyes safe.
You Don't Know Your Family History
It's important for your doctor to know if any eye conditions run in your family. That way, they'll check you for them regularly and start treatment right away if a problem comes up. For example, researchers think two of the most common causes of blindness -- glaucoma and macular degeneration -- could be linked to your genes.
You Don't Wear Your Glasses
Your vision changes over time. Staying on top of those changes is key to keep your eyes healthy. Make sure your prescription is up to date, or get a little help with fine print if you need it. "Readers" may be hard to keep up with, but they can help your eyes work better as you age.
This can be as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. It can make you more likely to:
- Get cataracts
- Damage your optic nerve
- Have macular degeneration
All of those can lead to vision loss.