When you wake up in the morning, one of the first things you might do is rub your eyes. The gentle pressure helps you wake up, and the movement wipes away any mucus and debris that built up in your eyes during the night. Additionally, the rubbing stimulates your lacrimal glands, which produce tears to soothe your tired eyes.
Though rubbing brings a small sense of pleasure, it also carries multiple risks. If you don’t exercise care whenever you rub, knuckle, or palm your eyes, you could cause damage in the following ways.
1. Greater Dark Circles
Dark circles around your eyes occur for a variety of reasons, including medications, anemia, allergies, fatigue, and age. However, rubbing and scratching your eyes can also cause these circles to appear, or at least darken circles already present.
Compared to the rest of your face, the skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate. Whenever you rub your eyes, you potentially damage the tiny blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface. When the blood vessels break, the blood flows into the surrounding tissue, temporarily giving your skin a darker shadowy color.
If you consistently wake up with dark circles, you likely rub your eyes in your sleep. Consider wearing an eye mask to bed to cushion and protect your skin.
2. Increased Risk of Infection
You use your hands for just about everything, from typing on your keyboard to preparing your food to combing your hair. As a result, you likely have hundreds of thousands of distinct bacteria clinging to your hands, even if you work in a relatively clean environment.
When you touch your hands to your eyes, you immediately transfer germs such as staphylococcus, streptococcus, salmonella, and E. coli, increasing your risk for serious infections. Although frequent washing kills some of these germs for a time, you can bet that those germs will return in frightening numbers as you go about your day.
If you absolutely must touch your eyes, always remember to thoroughly wash with soap and water for at least 30 seconds and wipe your hands on a clean, dry towel.
3. Scratched Cornea
In addition to transferring bacteria and germs, your hands may also introduce dust, debris, and other foreign particles to your eyes whenever you rub or touch them. If those objects are large enough, your eye may itch and sting, and in response, you may rub your eyes even more.
Unfortunately, rubbing your eyes is one of the worst ways to remove grit and debris. Rather than relieving the pain, rubbing may push the particles deeper into your eyes, scratching your cornea.
Small scratches and abrasions may lead to redness, irritation, and light sensitivity. Larger, more serious injuries may result in fungal infections and scars. In extreme cases, these abrasions may lead to long-term vision problems.
Should you feel or see any particles in your eyes, flush away the irritant with clean water or a sterile saline solution. If the debris remains, seek emergency help from an eye doctor.
4. Thinned the Cornea
The cornea acts as the eye’s outermost lens, controlling and focusing the light that enters the eye. The cornea’s round shape bends and refracts incoming light so it travels directly to the retina at the back of the eye.
To maintain its gently curved shape, the cornea relies on tiny collagen fibers. When these fibers weaken or break, the cornea bulges outward until it forms a cone shape, resulting in a condition known as keratoconus.
Keratoconus occurs for a number of reasons, such as genetics, eye disease, and oxidative stress. However, some researchers hypothesize that frequent rubbing causes trauma to the eye, and over time, that repeated trauma weakens the collagen fibers.
Although you can manage early stages of keratoconus via rigid contact lenses, keep your hands away from your eyes as a preventative measure.
5. Released Histamines
During allergy season, your immune system goes into overdrive. When your body encounters allergens, it naturally releases histamines. Histamines, in turn, allow white blood cells to better permeate capillaries and to more effectively attack foreign bodies in affected tissue. Unfortunately, histamines also trigger inflammation, so you experience red, irritated, swollen, and itchy eyes as a result.
When you rub your eyes, you experience temporary relief as you stimulate your tear production. The tears lubricate and soothe your eyes, and your eyes won’t feel as dry or irritated. But the extra pressure and movement also stimulate the release of additional histamines. In a few seconds, your eyes may feel itchier and more irritated than ever before.
If you need a little relief, invest in an over-the-counter eye drop or sterile saline solution that will flush out allergens and lubricate your eyes.
Can’t Stop Rubbing Your Eyes? Schedule an Eye Exam
Eye rubbing is a tough habit to break, but when you make a conscious effort, you can significantly reduce your risk for the above problems.
However, if your eyes feel consistently irritated or itchy, schedule an eye exam at All About Eyes. Your eye doctor can then pinpoint problems that would affect your ocular health and recommend the best treatment.
Last year, you found out your child needed glasses, and you purchased a brand new pair of glasses in his or her prescription. All was going well, but now your child is struggling to see again, even with his or her new glasses. Why did your child’s vision change so quickly? Are these changes normal?
Many people wonder about changes to their vision or their child’s vision. There are many reasons why a vision prescription might change. Since our eyes grow and change along with our bodies, vision changes can occur naturally. However, sometimes they’re a sign that something is wrong.
Age-Related Vision Changes
If your child is nearsighted, that nearsightedness can worsen as your child gets older. As your child grows up, his or her eyes grow and change as well. Nearsightedness often develops as early as age 6, and worsens the most around ages 11 to 13. It can continue to worsen until your child reaches his or her late teens or early 20s.
If your child is farsighted, his or her vision could actually improve as he or she grows. Farsightedness often occurs in early childhood and improves at around age 9, when the eyes have grown and learned to adjust.
From elementary school to high school, your child could need a new prescription every year or even more often. Thus, it’s important to take your child in for an eye examination at least once a year. An eye doctor can evaluate whether your child’s vision has changed. If it has, the eye doctor can prescribe new glasses or contacts.
It’s also a good idea to monitor your child’s vision throughout the year. Schedule an eye exam if your child struggles to read or see the board at school or if he or she frequently squints, rubs his or her eyes, or experiences headaches.
Adults also experience age-related changes to their vision. When you reach middle age, your eyes’ lenses begin to harden, causing you to become farsighted. As this happens, see your optometrist for a prescription for reading glasses.
Common Eye Conditions that Impact Vision
Besides nearsightedness and farsightedness, there are several eye conditions that can decrease vision. Fortunately, they are all treatable.
Astigmatism is when the eye curves differently in one direction than the other. It might cause blurry vision, but it can be corrected with glasses and contacts.
Amblyopia (lazy eye) involves malfunctioning nerve pathways between the brain and one of the eyes. Similarly, strabismus is when the eyes are misaligned. Your eye doctor may recommend wearing an eye patch to improve vision in the misaligned or malfunctioning eye. In some cases, he or she may recommend surgery.
Temporary Vision Changes
Certain conditions could cause your vision to worsen temporarily.
One of these conditions is fluctuating blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. Your vision can seem blurry until your blood sugar levels normalize. If your prescription suddenly worsens and you have diabetes, let your optometrist know. You’ll want to get your eye exam on a day when your blood sugar is stable.
Another condition that can temporarily cause your vision to worsen is dry eyes. If you have dry eyes, ask your eye doctor for a recommendation for eye drops.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also cause short-term changes in your vision. You may need a different prescription during your pregnancy, but your normal prescription should return either after you give birth or after you stop breastfeeding.
Disease-Related Vision Changes
If your vision suddenly gets worse, it could be a sign of a serious eye disease.
One of these diseases is glaucoma, where fluid builds up in your eye, damaging your optic nerve. If you experience sudden sight loss or blurry vision, perhaps accompanied by nausea and headaches, see an optometrist right away. Glaucoma can cause blindness if it’s not treated.
Another dangerous vision-related disease is the formation of a cataract. A cataract is when your eye’s lens becomes cloudy, negatively affecting your vision. A cataract can develop slowly over a period of time, so you might not notice it right away. If you suspect cataracts, you may need cataract surgery to restore your vision.
Finally, retinal degeneration is when your retina starts to break down. This can cause vision loss as well as night blindness and tunnel vision. There is no cure, but it can be treated with medications and laser treatment.
If you or your child notices a decrease in vision, it could simply be due to age or a common eye condition. However, sometimes vision changes indicate serious diseases or conditions that require treatment. Play it on the safe side and see an eye doctor right away.
Most optometrists recommend that you see them about once a year so they can monitor your eye health. Call All About Eyes to make your next appointment.
Most vision loss among older individuals is caused by macular degeneration. In fact, in 2010, the National Eye Institute (NEI) estimated that the number of people suffering from macular degeneration could increase from 2.07 million to 5.44 million by 2050.
So what is this threat to the vision of older patients, and what do you need to know about it?
What Is Macular Degeneration?
In most cases, macular degeneration, which is also called age-related macular degeneration or AMD, produces slow and completely painless vision loss over a period of years. This vision loss develops as the macula of the eye becomes damaged. As we discussed in our blog “Understanding the Different Parts of Your Eye,” the macula is located at the center of your retina.
A healthy macula enables you to see objects with greater detail. As the macula deteriorates, you could develop fuzziness or blind spots in the center of your field of vision.
Patients experience either non-neovascular or neovascular degeneration.
Also called dry macular degeneration, the non-neovascular version of this condition is technically considered an early stage of the deterioration. Patients develop non-neovascular AMD due to thinning of the macular tissues, pigment deposits building up in the macula, or sometimes from a combination of both.
Non-neovascular AMD may progress to neovascular AMD, but rarely does. However, some patients do develop geographic atrophy, or GA, that damages retinal cells and causes sudden vision loss.
Neovascular AMD only occurs in approximately 10% of all cases. When the condition develops to this point, the body attempts to replenish the nutrients in the eye by creating a new network of blood vessels, a process called choroidal neovascularization or CNV.
Instead of revitalizing the eye, CNV creates new blood vessels under the retina that leak blood and other fluids. This leakage can kill retinal cells and is the reason why neovascular AMD is also known as wet macular degeneration.
Who Is at Risk for Macular Degeneration?
Because AMD develops for a number of reasons, people in many demographics are at risk for the condition. However, AMD is more likely if you fall into these categories:
- You are 55 or older.
- You are Caucasian.
- You are or have been a smoker.
- You have a family history of AMD.
- You have abnormal blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
If you fit more than one of these categories, talk to your eye doctor about making tests for AMD part of our routine eye exams.
You can reduce the risk of AMD somewhat by eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise. If you have a family history of AMD, wear high-quality sunglasses when outside to protect the tissues of your eye and delay the potential onset of AMD.
What Are the Signs of Macular Degeneration?
The earliest stages of AMD often come with no symptoms. Some patients do not experience any effect on their vision until the condition has progressed to the intermediate stage.
You should talk to an optometrist about AMD if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Spots, which may be dark or light, appear in your center vision.
- Straight lines begin to appear warped or wavy.
- You experience changes in the sharpness of your center vision.
When you seek medical help for these symptoms, your eye doctor will administer several eye tests. In most cases, you will undergo a vision acuity test and a dilated eye exam. The appointment may also include an Amsler grid test. During this test, you will look at a specialized line grid and report any distortions to your eye doctor.
How Do Eye Doctors Address Macular Degeneration?
Because early AMD has so few symptoms, there are currently no clinical treatments for this stage other than preventative eye exams.
In the intermediate stages, treatment for your AMD may include dietary supplements and prescription medications. This regimen will likely include vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, and beta-carotene. Your eye doctor may also recommend omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, or zeaxanthin.
If you have advanced neovascular AMD, you may need to work with an ophthalmologist on a daily or weekly basis to record any new changes to your vision. To slow any vision loss, your eye health care provider may employ a series of therapies, including local injections, laser surgery, or photodynamic treatments.
There is currently no cure for either variety of AMD. Once vision has been lost to AMD, it cannot be restored. However, the methods listed above can reduce and, in some cases, even stop further vision loss.
If you are at risk for macular degeneration or have experienced symptoms related to macular degeneration, schedule an appointment with an optometrist at the All About Eyes location nearest you.
Our expert eye doctors can diagnose and evaluate the severity of existing macular degeneration, as well as make recommendations to reduce the risk of debilitating macular degeneration in your future.
Your prescription glasses are a big investment. You may spend a lot of time choosing the frames and color to ensure that you get the perfect pair of glasses for your face shape, fashion sense, and lifestyle.
But once you have your glasses, you may not think much about how you care for them. Unfortunately, oversight, neglect, or incorrect cleaning techniques can damage the lenses or frames of your glasses.
Follow these guidelines to best clean, store, and even wear your prescription glasses.
If you wear your glasses most or all of the day, the lenses can pick up dust, fingerprints, and other types of grime that may affect your vision. Properly cleaning your glasses when they become dirty protects the lenses.
For general cleaning, use the following method:
- Spray the lens with a cleaning solution before wiping them. Dry lenses are more likely to be scratched by dust and other particles. Do not use spit or your breath to wet your lenses, as spit can leave bacteria on the glass and breath does not provide enough moisture.
- Use a microfiber cloth as your primary cleaning tool. Avoid abrasive cleaning cloths like paper towels or clothing.
- Let the lenses air dry before putting your glasses back on.
For occasional deep cleaning, take these steps:
- Rinse your eyeglasses in tap water that’s approximately room temperature or a little warmer.
- Use a gentle, lotion-free cleaning solution to wash the lenses. Apply only a few drops to avoid leaving any soap residue on the lenses.
- Rinse the lenses to remove any soap and inspect for any missed spots. If the glasses are still dirty, repeat the steps above. If the glass looks clean, use a lint-free towel to remove most of the water.
- Let your glasses air dry completely in a safe place.
You may often need to clean your glasses quickly while away from home, so carry cleaning materials with you.
Certain types of eyeglasses, such as pairs with specialized lens coatings, may require specific care. Always follow the cleaning guidelines provided by your optometrist.
How you store your eyeglasses when you aren’t wearing them can determine how well the lenses and frame hold up over time. Follow these dos and don’ts for safely storing your glasses.
- Do use a hard case that’s the right size for your glasses. If possible, place your glasses in this case every time you take them off.
- Do get a backup case so you have one on hand if your primary case breaks or if you forget your primary case.
- Do place your glasses in their case with the lenses facing upward. When the lenses are downward, they’re more likely to become scratched.
- Don’t leave your glasses in a hot area, especially on the dash of a car parked in the sun. The heat can warp the frame.
- Don’t set your glasses close to sinks or vanities since your glasses are likely to get splashed or exposed to corrosive substances in these areas.
- Don’t put your glasses into a bag of any kind without first placing them in a hard case. The contents of the bag could easily scratch or crush your eyeglasses.
Use common sense as you decide the best ways to store and transport your glasses. If a choice puts your glasses in danger of being warped or scratched, look for another solution.
Establish good habits for wearing your glasses, especially if you have prescription lenses that you rely on most of the time. Correct wear habits help prevent warping.
Avoid Putting Your Glasses on Your Head
When you take your glasses off, do not simply push them up on top of your head. The top of the head is generally wider than the face and setting your glasses there can widen the frames.
Don’t Push on the Nose Piece
If your glasses slip down your nose, avoid pushing them back up by putting pressure on the nose piece. If you have wire glasses, this motion can distort the nose piece.
Use Both Hands
When you remove and put on your glasses, use both hands, one on either temple arm. This motion encourages correct alignment and minimizes changes to the fit of your frames over time.
If you frequently lose or misplace your glasses, you may also want to invest in a glasses cord. A cord is preferred to placing the glasses in a shirt pocket or hanging them from the neck of your shirt since these positions encourage warping.
Use these comprehensive guidelines to keep your prescription glasses intact and functional until you upgrade to your next pair.
Has your current pair of glasses outlived its accuracy or attractiveness? Schedule an appointment with the All About Eyes location nearest you. We offer high-quality eyeglasses in a variety of colors and styles to fit your needs.