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Healthy Eyes Start With Good Hygiene

Eye health is more than just regular eye exams, clean contacts and a good prescription. A good hygiene routine can also affect your eye health in a big way. Luckily for you, the good folks over at Northwestern Medicine have created a list of basic hygiene protocols you should follow to give your eyes their best shot at continued health:

1. Wash your hands. Many infections, including the commonly spread viral conjunctivitis (pink eye), are spread by unclean hands. Washing your hands and drying them on an individual towel can help keep infection out of the eye.

2. Remove your makeup nightly. Makeup debris can cause eye irritation and redness, but using proper cleaning solutions, makeup wipes or natural alternatives like coconut oil to remove makeup, particularly mascara, can prevent makeup particles from entering the eye. Pro tip: follow up with a cool compress on the eyes to reduce puffiness.

3. Quit (or don’t take up) smoking. Smoking is linked to macular degeneration, uveitis, cataracts and dry eye. Studies show that smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age.

4. Limit screen time. Northwestern pointed out that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day looking at a screen, and prolonged screen time has been shown to cause eye irritation, dryness, fatigue or blurred vision. We recommend the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, pick an object 20 feet away from your screen and look at it for 20 seconds. You can also help your eyes by adjusting your indoor lighting to avoid glare on your screens. A bright, white background is harder on your eyes than a cooler, gray tone. Antireflective lenses on your eyeglasses can also absorb some of the screen’s blue light.

5. Eat well. Regularly consuming foods such as spinach, kale, apricots, sweet potatoes and fish can give your eyes a boost because they contain certain nutrients that promote better vision. Vitamin C, calcium and zinc can also improve eye health.

6. Mind your blood sugar. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss and preventable blindness among U.S. residents between 24-64 years of age who have type 1 or 2 diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar is a risk factor. (If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to see your eye doctor for a full dilation exam yearly.)

While not exactly hygiene/nutrition suggestions, you should also wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside to decrease your risk for macular degeneration, cataracts and skin cancer around the eye, and as mentioned above, make sure to follow the instructions given on the package and by your optometrist when inserting, removing and cleaning contact lenses.

As evidenced by the information above, eye health is directly tied to overall health. Taking care of your eyes could have a positive effect on your entire body.