8 everyday habits affecting eye health

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs

Life, Health

Researchers warned there had been a threefold increase in the number of cases of a rare eye infection that can cause blindness since 2011.

The microorganism acanthamoeba lives in water and can cause serious damage if it gets into the eye. (Photo: AFP)

Recent studies now warn contact lens wearers to look after their eye health following an outbreak of a rare infection that can cause blindness.

Scientists at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital warned, last week, that paying attention to hygiene is essential for eye health, especially for the contact lens wearers.

The researchers warned there had been a threefold increase in the number of cases of a rare eye infection that can cause blindness since 2011.

The condition, acanthamoeba keratitis, is more likely to affect contact lens wearers as the disease is linked to lenses coming into contact with contaminated water, but anyone can be affected, say the researchers.

Researchers found that the risk is three times higher for contact lens wearers who don't wash and dry their hands before handling lenses and for those who use ineffective contact lens solution.

Speaking to MailOnline, Vision Direct optometrist Brendan O'Brien shares daily habits that can damage eyes and what one should do to keep them healthy.

Daily swim: While swimming is hugely beneficial for your cardiovascular system, if you're not wearing goggles, your eyes might be suffering, especially if you're a contact lens wearer and you open your eyes underwater. The water in pools, rivers and the sea, or even the shower can leave your eyes vulnerable to bacterial infection. The microorganism acanthamoeba lives in water and can cause serious damage if it gets into the eye.

If you really must wear your lenses in the pool stick to daily disposables along with waterproof swimming goggles, or better still invest in a pair of prescription goggles which will help you see clearly without water coming in direct contact with your eyes.

Out of date mascara: Mascara can harbour bacteria which can cause infections leading to redness, light sensitivity and irritation and, in rare cases, even blindness. Liquid liner and mascara have a shelf life of around three months once opened.

Eye make-up applied inside the eyeline, such as eyeliner, too can increase the risk of eye infection, according to research from the University of Waterloo published in the peer-reviewed journal of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Eye and Contact lens.

Similarly, false eyelashes could put your eyes at risk. According to experts, false eyelashes are a hygiene risk because they tend to trap dirt and bacteria, while poor quality, unhygienic lashes increase the risk, so it's important to find a reputable beautician.

Skipping your annual eye test : Eye tests can turn up health problems like diabetes, glaucoma and high blood pressure, all of which can lead to serious eye problems and even blindness if left unchecked. Even arthritis which causes joint inflammation can be spotted with an eye test, because the inflammation also turns up in the eye and will eventually attack the eye too if left untreated.

Staring at smartphone: Staring at your smartphone or computer screen or TV for hours on end is not good for your eye health, says research by the University of Toledo, published in Scientific Reports.

These screens emit blue light which is absorbed by vital cells in the eye's retina triggering toxic chemicals, which can eventually kill the photoreceptors we need for vision. And the older you get the more vulnerable you are.

Casual smoking habit: Smoking increases risk of cataracts and age related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a common condition that affects the middle part of your vision. Risk of AMD doubles with smoking over fifty.

Forgetting to wear sunglasses: Although the UV count is typically higher on sunnier days, it is important to bear in mind that up to 80 per cent of UV radiation can penetrate cloud, meaning that forgetting to wear sunglasses on an overcast day can still damage eyes.

Your fan: Leaving a fan running all night can increase irritation and dry eyes for contact lens wearers. Why? Because fans blow allergens like dust or pollen towards your eyes as you sleep, so that when you insert your lenses in the morning these deposits cause irritation and discomfort.

Over-using eye drops: Plenty of eye drops can lead to a rebound effect. Rebound redness results because the blood vessels in the eye dilate as the effects of the medication in the drops wears off, creating a vicious circle. One should rehydrate by drinking lots of water and eating plenty of foods rich in A, C and E vitamins and omega-3 fats, like salmon. And when the wind starts whistling, don your sunglasses to