What Can Damage Your Eyes?

what can damage your eyes

Every day, we hear about things that are bad for our health.

The latest one is 5G. Because it uses higher frequency waves, it requires more transmitter masts that are positioned closer to the ground. This is triggering the long-debated question about how radio waves affect us, in particular in relation to certain cancers.

Although such concerns to our health come and go and are hard to back up with hard evidence, the ones that relate to the health of our eyes are often well-founded and difficult to ignore. 

That’s because despite it being one of the complex structures in the known universe, we have a pretty good understanding of how the eye works. And so when it comes to protecting it, we also know what’s good for it and what’s not.

Here we’re going to have a look at some of those things we know for sure are not so good for our eyes and discover what we can do to better protect them.

The Sun: The Source of Energy For Our Solar System

The sun is the most commonly known threat to your eyes, and it is also one of the most serious.

It’s not just that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun, which could cause long-term damage to your eyes or even a telescope. The fact is the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays all the time, and although they are particularly harmful on sunny days or when reflected off something such as glass, water, or snow, UV rays can cause damage on a cloudy, miserable day too.

How exactly UV rays can damage your eyes is by causing cataracts and early onset macular degeneration.  They can also be to blame for pterygia (abnormal tissue growth on the whites of the eyes) and photokeratitis (sunburn on the cornea, which can cause cracking and blistering).

Protect yourself from these dangers by not looking directly at the sun, by remaining in the shade during the sunniest parts of the day, and by wearing high-quality sunglasses that have a UV protective coating.

Alcohol: The World’s Favourite Pastime

Although the odd drink now and then will not do you much harm, drinking excessively can cause damage to your whole body — and unsurprisingly that includes your eyes.

Not only will heavy drinking lead to early onset macular degeneration, it can also cause optic neuropathy, which affects your colour vision and central visual field. Alcohol can also decrease your sensitivity to colour contrast, meaning that, for example, you may struggle to differentiate between different shades of grey.

Although this may sound like no great loss, it can cause significant and gradual problems, especially when doing things like driving in difficult conditions. Alcohol can also affect your vision in an indirect way as it can alter the way in which your liver processes vitamin A — an essential vitamin for eye health.

Interestingly, there has been some research that shows drinking an occasional glass of red wine may actually slow eyesight deterioration, although occasional is the important word there. In order to avoid the dangers of drink on your eye health, stay within the government issued guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Smoking: A Slowly Dying Habit

After ageing, smoking is the biggest cause of macular degeneration, and like alcohol, smoking can cause a myriad of other problems too.

Optic neuropathy is again related, as the decrease in blood flow caused by smoking damages the optic nerve. Smoking may also increase your risk of developing cataracts or suffering from vascular disease (hardening of the arteries). On top of this, regularly sitting in smoky environments can lead to chronic red-eye, a damaged tear film, and irritable dry eye.

As you would expect, the best and most efficient way to prevent such disorders is to stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. The research on how vaping effects eye health is minimal, and so it may be a good transition to stopping but far from an ideal substitute.

Laziness: A Common & Incurable Condition

We could mention particular sports and types of exercise and how they’re great for eye health, but the key is not doing say CrossFit or cross-country skiing, rather, the key is simply to avoid laziness.

The fact is that an unbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle will eventually lead to the hardening and narrowing of arteries, high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, and much more. Such disorders all cause vision loss and unless dealt with early on, can even result in permanent blindness.

The basic guidelines say exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week and eat a balanced diet. We’d also add that exercising outdoors is always better than indoors, and to get at least one portion of vitamin A rich foods like liver, spinach, salmon, sweet potatoes, and peppers a day.