How Lifestyle Can Impact Eyesight

There's no question that eyesight tends to get a bit fuzzy as you get older, and you don't see a lot of 20-somethings with reading glasses. Yet many vision problems can crop up long before your senior years, and they often go hand-in-hand with a variety of lifestyle habits and medical conditions.

You stare at screens all day

Most of us spend a whopping 400 minutes a day looking at some combination of computers, smart phones, laptops, and tablets. All that screen time puts you at risk for "digital eye strain" (DES), a group of problems that include tired eyes and blurred vision. Part of the issue is that people rarely blink often enough, which can lead to dryness and irritation. Studies show that blink rate decreases by nearly 70% when using a digital device.

Luckily, DES symptoms usually resolve after you power down, but you can help prevent them in the first place by following the 20:20:20 rule: Every 20 minutes, close your eyes or look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps break up the intense viewing that can cause eye strain.
If you continue to have vision problems, schedule an eye exam to rule out farsightedness and astigmatism. Already wear glasses or contact lenses? Your eye doctor can determine whether you need special prescription glasses for computer work.

You wear your contacts too long

The longer you wear your contacts, the more dirt, mucus, proteins, and minerals build up. Besides blurring your vision, that gunk also hurts leaving your eyes dry and raw.

Even if your contacts seem just fine, remember to clean them every day and replace them according to the schedule recommended on the box. Most lenses on the market today are designed to be replaced daily, biweekly, or monthly.

You scratched your cornea

A corneal abrasion is a scratch or scrape on the clear, protective surface that covers the front of the eye. While that sounds like it hurts a lot, sometimes symptoms like blurry vision, redness, or feeling like you have sand in your eye don't crop up until hours after you were injured.

See a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you scratched your eye, whether you think something poked it or not. (Keeping your contacts in for too long could also cause abrasions.) A minor abrasion will usually heal on its own in a few days, but your doctor may give you antibiotic drops to prevent infection or steroid drops to reduce inflammation and the chance of scarring. If you wear contact lenses, avoid them until your eye heals.

You're expecting

Visual changes, like blurriness and double vision, are common during pregnancy. The reason: Hormonal changes can trigger shifts in the fluid that lies behind the cornea, altering its shape and thickness. This can cause some pregnant woman to become more near or farsighted until after delivery, when their eyes should return to normal. Mothers-to be are also prone to dry eyes, which can lead to blurred vision and make contact lenses feel uncomfortable.

You take antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, or antidepressants

All of these meds can cause dry eye, which is a slowdown in the production of tears and or a change in the composition of tears that causes them to evaporate too quickly. You might feel like something gritty is stuck in your eye or have episodes of blurred, pain, redness, and excess watering.

Women are more prone to dry eye, thanks to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and hormone therapy. Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes increase the risk, too.
Talk with your doctor if remedies like avoiding things that dry out your eyes (such as wind, drafts, and smoke) and using artificial tears don't provide enough relief, advises. Dry eyes are more likely to become infected, which can lead to permanent vision loss.

You have glaucoma

It's true that older folks are generally at higher risk for glaucoma, but everyone from babies to aging person can develop it. This disease occurs when a buildup of excess fluid in the eye causes pressure that damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries images from the retina to the brain. This nerve is like an electric cable containing numerous wires that, when damaged, causes blind spots to develop.

What's super scary about glaucoma is that there often no warning signs, and by the time you notice your vision has changed, you might have lost a substantial portion of your sight forever. That's why getting regular eye exams is so important. People between the ages of 18 and 60 should get their eyes checked at least every two years, and after 60, go annually. Glaucoma isn't curable, but if you catch it early and treat it (usually with medicated drops to lower eye pressure), it can be managed.


"how lifestyle can impact eyesight." 6 Reasons Why Your Vision Is Changing That Aren't Just Due To Aging. N.p., 3 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.