The eye is such a delicate, complex organ that Darwin himself asserted that its very existence cast doubt over his own theory of evolution – that such an “inimitable” organ could be produced by natural selection, he allowed, seemed “absurd in the highest degree”. Hundreds of years of scientific advances later and we’ve got a pretty good idea of how this miraculous organ operates – yet many of us seem to have little idea how to care for our own. With vision such an imperative part of our quality of life, few of us would knowingly risk our ocular health – yet most of us do it unwittingly every day. At the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, we’re dedicated to eradicating corneal blindness, so we’ve compiled this list of the biggest day-to-day risks to our eye health – and how to eliminate them. Knowledge is power, so arm your eyes with information, and read on!
1. Not Wearing Sunglasses
Most of us are aware of the devastating effect that sunlight can wreak on our skin, but we don’t necessarily think of the impact on our eyes – which, considering that UV radiation from sunlight can cause cataracts, conjunctivitis and keratitis, is pretty worrying. Avoid direct sunlight to the eyes at all costs – buying sunglasses with good quality lenses (make sure they offer UV protection as simply being dark in colour isn’t enough) and wearing a wide brimmed hat to further shade your eyes will go a long way towards reducing your risk of eye damage.
2. Drinking Too Much Alcohol
We’ve all heard of “beer goggles”, but what about the long term effects of alcohol abuse on your ocular health? Excessive drinking affects the reaction time of your pupils, meaning that they don’t constrict quickly enough to protect your eyes from bright light, which can lead to eye damage (especially if you’re enjoying a drink outside in the summer!). It also swells and increases the blood vessels in your eyes, leading to red, blood-shot eyes. Drink infrequently and in moderation to avoid ending up with permanently bloody whites.
3. Over Using Contact Lenses
Unlike the rest of your body, your cornea gets its oxygen supply directly from the air, not from the blood – so if you wear your lenses for longer than the recommended 8 hours a day, you could be in for a whole host of oxygen-deprivation induced eye problems. Corneal neovascularization, which causes the amount of blood vessels feeding your eye to increase and overgrow the eye, can cause scarring, vessel collapse and even blindness – so make sure you alternate your contacts with glasses, and practice good hygiene when handling your lenses.
The amount of behaviors which can impact on your eyes may surprise you, but it’s a good idea to practice common sense – if something is hurting or irritating your eyes, it probably isn’t good for them. Prolonged use of screens, exposure to UV light or radiation, allowing your eyes to become excessively dried out, not washing your hands and then touching your eyes – all these behaviors can spell disaster for your healthy vision, so take precautions and remember to visit your optician at least yearly!