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Your eyes are precious, but people often take them for granted. Even those with perfect vision should visit an eye doctor regularly to get checked for common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. To take care of your eyes, it’s important to visit an eye specialist regularly, wear sunglasses, avoid smoking, and eat healthy vegetables. Luckily, staring at a screen all day won’t damage your eyes permanently, but it can cause strain on the visual system. Here are five common ways people hurt their eyes every day, and how to avoid them.
We know we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, because it can cause serious eye damage even after a few seconds, according to Healthline. But there are plenty of other everyday habits that can hurt our eyes over time.
Business Insider spoke with Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association, to get some insight into how we may be damaging our eyes without even realizing it.
Even if you think your vision seems fine, these five things could be hurting your eyesight:
1. Staring at screens for too long Samuel Borges Photography /Shutterstock
In a single day, think of all the screens you may encounter — your smartphone, GPS, computer, TV, tablet, and more.
Fortunately, all those hours of screen time probably aren’t causing physical damage to your eyes, according to Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association. However, looking at screens for too long can cause stress in the visual system.
“That stress can result in eye strain, headaches, difficulty with focusing — a number of things that can impact quality of life overall,” Quinn told Business Insider.
It’s probably impossible to avoid screens all together. Instead, Quinn suggests practicing the 20-20-20 rule, which calls for you to look away from the screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds and look instead at an object that’s at least 20 feet away. It gives you an opportunity to refresh your eyes, he said.
2. Not wearing sunglasses WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock
Whether the sky is sunny or overcast, the sun’s harmful rays can still impact our eyes. You don’t have to stare directly at the sun to experience damage. In fact, sun exposure over time can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults, Quinn said.
Sunglasses can help protect against that damage, but it’s important to wear ones that protect against ultraviolet (UV) light, according to the National Eye Institute.
“UV light-absorbing sunglasses mitigate that risk substantially,” Quinn said. “Normally, high-quality sunglasses will filter 95% or more of the harmful rays of the sun.”
3. Smoking cigarettes fongbeerredhot/shutterstock
Aside from increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can also affect eye health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just like sun exposure, smoking can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
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