Daily Health

Better Hygiene for Healthy Eyes

Better Hygiene for Healthy Eyes

Main Article Content

Treat Your Eyes Well for Better Health

Your eyes are an important part of your health, but when it comes to hygiene, we often overlook proper care for our eyes. A few easy additions to your daily routine can help you avoid infection and contamination, and also improve your vision. Here are a few tips to get started:

Remove Your Makeup Nightly

Excess debris from makeup can cause eye irritation and redness. Use warm compresses, makeup wipes or natural alternatives such as coconut oil to remove all of your makeup, especially stubborn mascara. To reduce puffiness, try finishing with a cool compress.

Wash Your Hands

Common eye infections such as viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) can be avoided with proper handwashing. Whenever possible, avoid sharing towels, makeup or medicated eye drops to avoid spreading bacteria to other people. Hygiene is also important for managing blepharitis (swelling of the eyelid that results in inflamed, itchy, red eyelids). Keep your lids clean and free of crusty stuff by applying warm compresses and using artificial tears daily. Blepharitis tends to recur so proper eyelid hygiene is key.

Quit Smoking

We all know that smoking is one of the most modifiable risk factors for serious health conditions – and that includes your eyes. Smoking contributes to macular degeneration, uveitis, cataracts and dry eye (when your tears are poor quality and cause fuzzy vision, like a dusty windshield). In fact, smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age.

Limit Screen Time

The average American spends more than 10 hours a day viewing smartphones, computers and other devices. Prolonged screen time causes eye irritation, dryness, fatigue or blurred vision. To help your eye muscles relax, try the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes you’re on a computer or device, look away at an object at 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. Also adjust indoor lighting to avoid too much glare on your devices. A bright, white background is harder on your eyes than a cooler, gray tone. If you need to wear eye glasses to see the screen, choose a pair with anti-reflective lenses to absorb some of the screen’s blue light.

Eat Your Carrots

And your spinach, kale, apricots, sweet potatoes, and fish, which contain nutrients that support better vision. Vitamin C, calcium and zinc also boost eye sight.

Treat Your Contacts Well

Contact lenses, that is. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before removing your contact lens. Use fresh solution every night. If you’ve been using the same storage case since you started wearing contacts, throw it out and aim to replace it every three months. Do not use tap water to rinse your contact lenses because it isn’t sterile and contains microorganisms that can lead to serious infections. Also, when it comes to sleeping, it’s safest to always remove contacts before getting some shut eye.

Dispose of your contacts as recommended by your eye doctor. Don’t try to extend the life of your contacts beyond the approved replacement schedule. Even though the lenses may still feel ok in your eyes, the protein and mucus starts to build up on your lenses, increasing your risk for infection and inflammation. Corneal infection and inflammation mean no contact lens wear for days, or even weeks. It may even result in corneal scarring and vision loss.

Wear Sunnies

Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement – they protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and ultraviolet radiation (UVB), which in the long run can cause macular degeneration and cataracts. Skin cancer can occur right around your eyes, so your pair of specs should offer 99 percent protection against UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses protect the thin eyelid skin that we don’t apply sunscreen to due to the burning and irritation of the eyes.

Be Aware of Blood Sugar

Diabetic retinopathy is the major leading cause of vision loss and preventable blindness among 24-64 year olds in America who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Poorly controlled blood sugar is a risk factor. If you have diabetes, be sure to get a dilated eye exam every year.

You only have one set of eyes so that makes hygiene even more important. Protect your vision and minimize your risk for infection.

Interested in connecting more to the Northwestern Medicine community? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E-Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements. Because what makes you better, makes us better.