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Who wouldn’t want happier, healthier eyes? Although there are a number of factors over which we have no control — aging and family medical history, for example — there are a number of other habits we engage in on a regular basis that may or may not be good for our eyes. For happier, healthier eyes, consider breaking the following four habits today!

SMOKING

Quite simply, smoking is one of the worst things you can do not only for your body but for your eyes as well. Smoking is directly tied to an increased risk for several eye diseases, most notably cataracts and macular degeneration. Increased risk for eye disease means increased risk of vision loss. Smoking causes the arteries to harden, thus causing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Smoking also reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The structures at the back of the eye are affected by smoking in the same way as the heart, arteries, and blood vessels throughout the rest of the body, and they need oxygen and nutrients to function properly. If you do nothing else, smoking is the one lifestyle habit you should quit as soon as possible.

OVERUSING EYE DROPS

When your eyes are irritated, it may be tempting to reach for your favorite eye drops or eye lubricant; however, many people tend to overuse such products with the unintended consequence of making their eye irritation even worse. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye drops that reduce redness work by temporarily constricting the blood vessels, thus reducing the appearance of redness. By overusing such eye drops, the blood vessels are constricted far longer than is truly healthy for the eyes. Be sure you are using your eye drops or eye lubricants as directed by your eye doctor, and avoid using them more frequently than directed. If you feel that your eyes are too irritated for the regiment recommended, consult your eye doctor to see what other options may be available to you.

IMPROPERLY TREATING DRY EYES

Although lubricating drops are excellent for treating dry eyes, using formulations that contain preservatives may cause excess irritation. In addition, most of us tend to keep our eye drops and lubricating solutions in the medicine cabinet or in a kitchen cupboard. It turns out that room temperature may not be the best idea for dry, irritated eyes. Instead, consider keeping your eye lubricant in the refrigerator. The combination of the lubricant and cool temperature tend to be particularly soothing. If you live in a dry climate or use your air conditioner regularly, you may also find some relief by using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Avoid rubbing your eyes as well, as this will only serve to increase your eye irritation.

FORGETTING SUNGLASSES

Excess exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays without proper protection not only increases your risk of skin cancer, but it also increases your risk for eye damage and the risk for developing cataracts — clouding of the lens of the eye that may rob you of vision if left untreated. Excess UV exposure also damages the retina at the back of the eye, and overtime will negatively impact your vision.

Did you know that you can actually get sunburn on your eye? A sunburn on the cornea is known as ultraviolet keratitis, and can develop any time you are exposed to an excess of ultraviolet rays from the sun, tanning lamps, or other sources of light that contain UV rays. You may not feel the effects right away, but typical symptoms of eye irritation or damage after UV exposure include eye pain, blurred vision, and tearing. One of the easiest steps you can take to protect your vision is to wear sunglasses when going outside, driving, or sitting next to a window with bright sun exposure.

To learn more about keeping your eyes healthy, or if you are having eye irritation, blurred or double vision, call Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 for the Kansas City / Independence office to schedule an eye exam.

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