Each New Year brings the admirable and highly anticipated annual list of resolutions. Whether it be eating healthier, striving to actually use your gym membership, or even to simply finish that Netflix series you started 6 months ago, we are all guilty of promising ourselves a certain degree of self-improvement with the start of a new year. This year, it’s time to start breaking some everyday habits that are damaging your eyes.

In the past, experts thought that sharp or poor vision was mostly inherited from our parents. And, in many cases, changes in eyesight are due to genetics or aging. However, it has been found that there are a number of everyday activities that are destroying our eye health. Habits that often go unnoticed, like forgetting your sunglasses at home or scrolling through Facebook for hours, are contributing to significantly damaging your eyes in the long-term. Here are a few improvements for 2017:

  1. Stop staring at your smartphone screen

Although we depend on our phones for a variety of daily tasks, spending a lot of time looking at their screens can cause a multitude of eye problems including headaches, muscle strain, dizziness, blurred vision, and dry eye. Our blink rate decreases to almost half when we are looking at our smartphones, while our muscles tighten as we strain to see the small screen containing even smaller text.

To help combat this, put your phone down every 20 minutes and focus on something else to relieve your eyes. You can also increase the font size on your phone to prevent increased eyestrain.

  1. Throw away expired eye makeup

As heartbreaking as it may be to part with your favorite eyeliner or mascara, it’s important to be aware of the bacteria that old makeup is capable of growing. Eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, and other eye creams all have potential for causing eye infections. You should throw away eye makeup after a few months. If your mascara starts to get clumpy, it’s officially time to bid it farewell.

  1. Take your contacts out before swimming and sleeping

It may be a hassle to take the extra few minutes to pop out your contacts, but it’s well worth it. Not removing your contacts before sleeping or swimming is a bad habit that a lot of people don’t think about. Wearing your contacts in any type of water can allow bacteria into the eye. This can cause some serious infections and, in extreme cases, alter your vision permanently. While taking out your contacts, make sure your hands are clean to prevent getting dirt or bacteria into your eye.

  1. Stop rubbing your eyes

It’s practically a reflex to rub your eyes when they’re irritated. As tempting as it is, it’s a bad habit that you should consider breaking. Rubbing your eyes allows bacteria and dirt to get into them. Rubbing them too hard can actually break the blood vessels around the eye and under the eyelid. If you feel like something is stuck in your eye, rubbing for relief can force the debris in further. Try a cold compress for the irritation and blinking until the tears flush the dirt out of your eyes.

  1. Wear safety goggles

Around 45% of all eye injuries happen at home. Everyday tasks can expose us to potentially damaging chemicals and debris. While working on your DIY home improvement projects, be sure to wear safety goggles, especially if your crafting involves nail guns.  Also, beware of harsh cleaning products you’re using in your home.

  1. Don’t overuse eye drops

Although they might feel like sweet relief, nonprescription eye drops don’t truly improve the health of your eye, they just make them appear less red. They are a temporary fix for dry and irritated eyes, but using them too much can have the opposite effect in the long-term. Try splashing cool water on your face and eyes at the end of the day to wash away any possible allergens and irritants that could be causing redness.

  1. Make your sunglasses your favorite accessory

Some of the sun’s most common effects on the eyes are cataracts and macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. UV exposure can permanently damage your retina, just like it can damage your skin. Also, not wearing sunglasses causes which can result in eyestrain and painful headaches. Protect your eyes and look fashionable at the same time.

  1. Visit the eye doctor regularly

Although this seems obvious, the importance of getting an annual exam is commonly overlooked. There are a lot of eye issues that don’t necessarily have symptoms but doctors can detect them. Many times, people go to the doctor once they’ve started experiencing symptoms and vision loss, making the damage much harder to combat. So as unappealing as it may be to go to the eye doctor, it’s one of the most important things you can do for the health of your eyes.

Dr. Robert Eden
Dr. Robert Eden
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Union College in 1999, Dr. Eden received his medical degree from Albany Medical College in 2002. He completed an internship at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (Boston, MA) and residency at the Nassau University Medical Center (East Meadow, NY) before returning to the Capital District for fellowship training in corneal and refractive surgery at Cornea Consultants of Albany in 2007. During the subsequent two years, Dr. Eden maintained a busy practice in Queens, NY, where he served on staff at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, Caritas Medical Centers and The New Parkway Hospital. He also operated at Laser One (New York, NY) and at the MacKool Eye Institute (Astoria, NY) where he performed cornea, cataract and laser vision correction surgery. Dr. Eden returns to Albany as a board-certified, fellowship-trained cornea, cataract and refractive surgery specialist. His practice focuses on state-of-the-art medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases, from dry eye to artificial cornea. He has experience in routine, as well as complex, cataract surgery including placement of the latest intraocular lenses to reduce spectacle dependence, traditional and partial thickness corneal transplantation (DSAEK), and refractive surgery from LASIK to phakic IOL.

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