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Bad Habits That Could Turn You Blind, Say Experts

Don't compromise your eye health.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Eye health tends to be one of those things we don't think too much about unless something goes wrong. But experts say it's possible, and important, to be proactive about practicing good habits to maintain healthy vision. Conversely, there are things you may be doing every day that can compromise your eye health, potentially even leading to blindness. These are bad habits experts say could turn you blind. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Smoking

girl in casual clothes smoking an electronic cigarette
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"Smoke in the air is a direct irritant of the eyes," says Dr. Howard R. Krauss, surgical neuro-ophthalmologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "Cigarette smoking and/or second-hand smoke have been incriminated in early and more rapidly progressive cataracts, and an increased risk of vascular disease which may lead to blinding circulatory changes within the retina or optic nerve. Additionally, cigarette smokers also suffer a more rapidly progressive, potentially blinding form of macular degeneration."

2

Having Uncontrolled Diabetes

Young diabetic woman checking her blood sugar levels.
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Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 18 to 64. "Anyone with diabetes or at risk of diabetes is also at risk for diabetes-related eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and macular edema, as well as glaucoma and cataracts," says Dr. Timothy Murray, a retina specialist in Miami. If you have diabetes, protect your vision by keeping it controlled, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and seeing an eye doctor regularly. "One simple and effective habit that can help detect potential vision problems early is scheduling annual dilated eye exams," says Murray. "Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can reduce a person's risk for severe vision loss from diabetic eye disease by 95%."

3

Rubbing Your Eyes

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Rubbing your eye puts you at risk for developing keratoconus, a condition in which the cornea progressively weakens and changes shape over time. "This creates blurriness and distortions in your vision and in severe cases can require a cornea transplant to correct," says Dr. Barrett Eubanks, a California-based ophthalmologist. "Instead of rubbing the eye, it's better to treat the reason you are rubbing, such as irritation or itchiness, with artificial tears or allergy eye drops."

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4

Not Wearing Safety Goggles

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"When working within the yard or around the house, you can encounter sudden projectiles coming toward your eyes," says Eubanks. "These can be traveling too quick to respond and can injure the eye, causing blindness." Always wear safety goggles whenever there's a chance something could fly into your eye.

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5

Not Wearing Sunglasses

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"As a professor once taught me, think of sunglasses like sunscreen for the eyes," says Dr. Benjamin Bert, ophthalmologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. "UV radiation can cause damage to many parts of the eye, including causing a sunburn-type event on the surface or even damaging structures inside of our eye. UV damage to the crystalline lens inside of our eye can lead to early cataract formation," To avoid damage, regularly wear sunglasses that are 100% ultraviolet light blocking, including both UVA and UVB rays. 

"Sunglasses do not have to be expensive to be UV blocking," says Bert. "But, if you have any concerns about the UV blocking in your sunglasses, you can have them read using an UV meter available at most optical shops."

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6

Looking Into the Sun

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"When the solar eclipse happened, there were a number of people who gazed directly at the event and not through the recommended filter," says Bert. "The amount of energy delivered by the sun, even through the appropriate sunglasses, can create so much heat in the eye that it can cause a burn in the retina, known as solar retinopathy. The burn can be permanent." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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