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  • 20 Worst Things for Your Eyes

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    Reviewed By Purnima S Patel, MD
    Published Sep. 25, 2020

    What’s the worst thing you can imagine happening to your eye? Eye threats vary from the extreme, like eyeball tattoos, to seemingly harmless habits such as forgetting to clean your contact lenses. For 2020: Year of the Eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology presents 20 top threats to eye health.

    1. Not wearing sunglasses

    Too much UV radiation from the sun is a real threat to vision. It can damage the eye's surface tissues, the cornea and the lens. Cataracts and eye cancers can eventually form from too much UV exposure. Luckily, wearing 100% UV or UV400 protection sunglasses is an effective way to protect your eyes while enjoying the outdoors.

    2. Tattooing your eyeball

    Eyeball tattooing can cause several serious complications, including infections from the needle or ink, inflammation of the eye, retinal detachments, or blindness. For a safer way to change the appearance of your eye, see your ophthalmologist about getting a prescription for colored contact lenses.

    3. Being a picky eater

    Severe dietary deficiencies can lead to blindness. In these rare cases, a lack of vitamins can damage the optic nerve. A colorful plate full of leafy green vegetables, orange-colored vegetables and citrus, fruits, beans and other nutrient-rich foods are best for healthy eyes.

    4. Smoking

    Cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma – the list of eye diseases linked to smoking goes on and on. Quitting smoking is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make to protect your eyes.

    5. Dangerous home remedies

    Don’t fall for misleading home remedies! Whether it’s breast milk in the eye as a cure for pink eye, frozen meat on a black eye, or another cure trending on social media, these substances could carry bacteria and cause eye infections. Be cautious and ask your ophthalmologist before trying these at home.

    6. Mistaking glue or other substances for eyedrops

    People mix up their medications often. Small bottles tend to look like eyedrops, and can result in anything from slight discomfort to glued shut eyelids. Superglue in the eye is a common mistake and can cause potentially vision-threatening complications, such as corneal abrasions. Make sure your eye drops are clearly labeled and kept separate from other medications and household appliances.

    7. Ignoring your existing health conditions

    You may not think your high blood pressure or other health conditions have anything to do with your eyes, but think again. Systemic health conditions that are not managed well can sometimes lead to changes in vision. In fact, diabetic eye disease is one of the most common causes of blindness, when high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the eye to leak.

    8. Playing sports and games without protective eyewear

    Sports and certain toys can cause serious eye injuries without the proper safety gear. Retinal detachments, bleeding inside the eye, rupture of the eye — these are all common eye injuries in athletes and could be prevented with appropriate eyewear.

    9. Not wearing protective eyewear at work

    If you work in construction, with chemicals, or are just an avid home project DIYer, eyewear is a requirement. In fact, most eye injuries happen around the house. More than 90% of these injuries could be avoided by wearing protective eyewear.

    10. Delaying medical care after an eye injury

    Eye injuries sometimes don’t seem very serious. But not getting the right treatment may mean losing your vision. Learn the common symptoms of eye injury and get medical attention right away.

    11. Not taking medications as instructed

    Some serious eye diseases require ongoing treatments. People with glaucoma, for example, use prescription eye drops. Patients sometimes forget to put in eyedrops or do not put them in correctly. This can have serious consequences on the effectiveness of your treatment. Make sure to follow instructions and talk to your medical team if you are having any difficulty doing so.  

    12. Staring at the sun

    Staring directly at the sun without protection can burn your retina. If you have plans to enjoy the next eclipse, make sure you have special-purpose solar filtered lenses for eclipse safety. Your standard sunglasses, while good for protection you from too much UV light, are still not appropriate for staring directly at the sun.

    13. Swimming in contact lenses

    Water and contact lenses don’t mix. Swimming with contacts in can cause bacteria to get in the eye and puts you at high risk for an infection. Try prescription swimming goggles instead.

    14. Forgetting to clean your contacts

    Not cleaning contact lenses well is another way people can get eye infections. Make sure you are washing your hands, storing contacts properly, and using cleaning solution for disinfection. Talk to your eye care professional about more detailed care instructions.

    15. Wearing daily contacts for weeks, months ... or years!

    Daily wear contacts are contact lenses made for one-day use only. You wear these when you are awake and dispose them at the end of the day before sleep. Wearing contacts for longer than instructed can threaten your vision. Follow manufacturer guidelines on how long contacts should be worn.

    16. Buying contacts without a prescription

    Maybe you wish you had a different eye color, or just want to spice up your next Halloween costume. But many of these over-the-counter decorative contacts are sold without a doctor’s prescription – a dangerous choice that can lead to serious eye damage, including blindness. Always consult with an eye care professional before using contact lenses.

    17. Sleeping with your makeup on

    If not removed properly, eye makeup can scratch the surface of the eye and lead to infection. One woman reported wearing mascara every day without properly removing it for 25 years and developed a bad reaction. Some tips include using a cotton swab to remove all makeup around the eye and thoroughly washing any makeup remover off with water. Vaseline and baby shampoo are both effective and safe makeup removers as well.

    18. Using cosmetic products and procedures that aren't FDA-approved

    Eye makeup with untested chemicals may cause infections or bad reactions. Make sure products are FDA approved for use around the eye. For eyelash growth serums, this means getting a prescription from an eye doctor. And watch out for eyebrow and eyelash enhancements, like an eyelash tint and lift. These procedures can cause bad reactions.

    19. Skipping vaccines

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends getting appropriate vaccinations, including shingles for adults over 50 and measles for kids. Both of these diseases can get in the eye and cause serious vision problems.

    20. Missing routine eye exams

    Many eye diseases begin without any symptoms. That’s why a dilated eye exam is so important. An ophthalmologist is able to spot eye diseases early—when treatment is most effective—simply by looking into your eye. The Academy recommends all healthy adults get a baseline eye exam with an ophthalmologist by age 40. Your ophthalmologist can then help recommend the best follow-up plan for you based on your individual health and risk factors.