(BPT) - If you're like many Americans, you're diligent about maintaining your health by eating right, exercising and regularly seeing your doctor. But even the most health-conscious people are often unaware of daily behaviors in their lives that could be straining or even damaging their eyes. That's surprising, given that 21 percent of Americans believe severe vision loss would negatively impact the quality of their lives.
The good news? Taking steps to protect your eyes isn't difficult. Guarding yourself against these potentially damaging behaviors should be part of your regular health routine.
* Not wearing sunglasses.Sun wear does more than just block glare. The same harmful rays that can burn your skin can also damage your eyes over time, sometimes leading to vision-reducing issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration. As a precaution, ophthalmologists recommend wearing sunglasses anytime you're outside, seeking lenses that block out at least 99 percent of UVA and UVC rays.
* Failing to visit your eye doctor annually. Seeing an eye doctor once a year to check on any prescription changes is important, but a visit can also help detect other serious eye issues. Alarmingly, one survey found 64 percent of Americans notice signs of trouble such as red, watery eyes, light flashes, blurry or double vision, difficulty seeing at night or difficulty reading up close, yet only 13 percent follow up with eye exams. Fortunately, taking that step is easier when you're covered by solid eye care insurance with a provider such as VSP Individual Vision Plans, which could save you literally hundreds of dollars a year in eye exams, glasses and contacts.
* Staring at your smartphone. If your eyes are often sore or tired at the end of the day, you may be spending too much uninterrupted time zeroing in on your phone. To avoid that strain and even worse symptoms such as blurred vision, dry eyes, dizziness or nausea, enlarge your font, always keep your phone at least 16 inches away from your face and take screen breaks every 20 minutes.
* Overusing eye drops.Some people form a dependency on the over-the-counter whitening drops that reduce redness by temporarily restricting blood flow to the eye's blood vessels. Repeat users often notice that their eyes 'rebound' and get red again as oxygen returns to those deprived capillaries, creating a vicious cycle. As a rule, non-prescription eye drops should not be a long-term solution to any eye issue.
* Using old or borrowed eye makeup.You should replace your makeup every three months to keep from introducing new and potentially harmful bacteria into your eye area. Avoid other people's makeup for the same reason. Eye care experts also warn against applying eyeliner to your inner eyelids, which can be especially vulnerable to infection.
Getting in the habit of caring for your eyes need not be time consuming, and it doesn't have to be expensive if you think ahead by enrolling in a vision plan with VSPDirect.com, the provider with the largest network of independent doctors nationwide. Call for more information at 800-785-0699.