11 Habits That Are Ruining Your Eyes

It’s time to change up these bad-for-you behaviors.


1. Staring at your smartphone.

Straining to read the tiny text on your cell phone may be the reason your eyes hurt day after day — especially if you’re doing this for hours on end. It could also lead to blurred vision, dry eyes, dizziness, and nausea.

Put down your phone every 20 minutes to give your eyes a break. Or, even better, make the font on your phone bigger so your eyes aren’t working over time to read that tiny Facebook post.

2. Watching TV at night.

In fact, looking at any type of screen right before bed in the dark, including your cell phone, e-reader, television, and computer, is bad for you. The levels of light are changing rapidly, so your eyes have to work hard to process the changes, which can lead to eyestrain, pain, headaches, dry eye, and redness. Even worse? It can mess with your sleep schedule, too.

On the flip side, reading in a dim light isn’t advised either. Although there isn’t a lot of evidence that says it’s bad for your eyesight, it does strain your eyes, which can make them more tired and red, or lead to pain and discomfort. So turn on that lamp on the nightstand if you’re trying to finish off a few chapters before bedtime.

3. Sleeping in contacts.

We get it — it’s late and you’re tired. But that’s no excuse for not taking your contacts out. Not only does it increase your risk of an infection, but it could lead to permanent damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one million Americans visit the eye doctor each year with infections related to wearing contacts. Bonus tip: When you take them out at night, make sure your hands are clean and you use extra contact solution.

4. Rubbing your eyes.

As tempting as it may be, it’s a big no-no. Rubbing them too hard can break the blood vessels under the eyelids. So to soothe irritated eyes, try a cold compress instead.

5. Overusing eyedrops.

While they temporarily alleviate dry eyes, using them too often could actually irritate your eyes over time. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) warns that nonprescription eyedrops don’t actually improve the health of your eye, they just make your eyes appear less red. They recommend using eyedrops for only a short period of time.

If you’re using prescription eyedrops, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, and stop using them immediately if they cause irritation, an eye rash, or any other negative side effect.

6. Not eating a well-balanced diet.

Yes — diet and nutrition matter. In fact, some fruits and vegetables are crucial for optimum eye health, especially ones with vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. The AAO suggests adding citrus fruits, vegetables oils, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, and fish to your meals as much as possible.

Even more important? Water. Staying hydrated is key for tear production and keeping eyes well-lubricated. Also, make sure to skip foods high in sodium, which can dehydrate your body.

7. Not using safety goggles.

According to the AAO, almost 45% of eye injuries happen at home. And the most common risks are being exposed to chemicals in cleaning products (household products cause 125,000 injuries each year), hot grease and oil splatters during cooking, home improvement projects involving nails, mowing the lawn, and using hot styling tools near the eyes. So yes, you may look silly wearing those safety goggles, but it’s a really good idea when working on a home improvement project.

8. Misusing eye makeup.

Anything you put near your eye is a potential risk. And yes, this includes your mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, and eye creams. So make sure to apply makeup far away from your lash line so you don’t block the oil glands of your lids — a buildup here can cause infections. Also, throw away your eye makeup after three months. Bacteria loves to grow in dark, damp places, so your mascara could be a breeding ground to some nasty infections.

9. Not getting enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of problems, including weight gain, depression, and decreased immune function. Moreover, a lack of sleep is also hurting your eyes (some symptoms include twitching, dry eyes, blurry vision, and pain). Be sure to get a minimum of seven hours a night and remember, put down that smartphone before bed.

10. Not wearing your glasses (or sunglasses).

Excessive squinting can lead to eyestrain, which can then lead to pain. Thankfully there’s a simple solution: Wear your glasses!

And when you’re outside, use those stylish sunnies hiding at the bottom of your bag. They help block harmful UV rays that could hurt your eyes over time. Have photophobia or light sensitivity? Sunglasses can help minimize the effects of bright lights, including headaches, blurred vision, or red eye.

11. Not visiting the eye doctor regularly.

Not only can your doctor detect serious eye issues (think glaucoma) that don’t have symptoms, but they can also see signs of other illnesses (such as diabetes and high blood pressure) just by peaking into your eye.

On top of that, your vision probably isn’t as good as you think. If you’re squinting for every day tasks you could be putting yourself and others at risk. For one thing, updating your prescription can help lower the number of preventable car accidents each year.