Multiple studies have shown that people are more scared of losing their vision than they are of losing their hearing, memory, or a limb, or of receiving a cancer or heart disease diagnosis. Yet, people tend to ignore their ocular health, skipping regular eye exams, ignoring symptoms that compromise their vision, and adopting a surprisingly cavalier attitude towards the products they use in and around their eyes. Here are eight do’s and don’ts for better eye health.

DON’T use prostaglandin-based eyelash serums

Several decades ago, clinical trial researchers observed that glaucoma patients using an eye drop medication called bimatoprost experienced a surprise effect: longer, lusher eyelashes. Now widely available under the brand name Latisse as well as in generic form, millions of Americans have religiously applied bimatoprost to their lash line nightly in pursuit of those same lashes.

But while the active ingredients in these serums—usually bimatoprost or isopropyl cloprostenate—extend the active growth phase of the lash, they can also cause undesirable side effects, including redness, itching, eyelid darkening, and loss of fat around the eye, creating a sunken eye effect. They can even permanently darken the iris (the colored part of the eye).

These changes are allergic reactions caused by compounds called prostaglandins and prostaglandin analogs (PGAs) that lower the pressure in the eye. Reduced eye pressure is excellent for glaucoma, but if you don’t have glaucoma and are introducing prostaglandins and PGAs into your eyes for purely cosmetic purposes, you’re needlessly running the risk of side effects.

DO use peptide-based eyelash serums

They enhance growth via chains of amino acids that strengthen existing lashes. Results aren’t as dramatic as those with prostaglandin-based formulas, but the side effect profile is minimal. Dr. Lazar likes Lash Food’s Eyelash Enhancing Serum, Bausch + Lomb’s Lumify Nourishing Lash & Brow Serum, and Twenty/Twenty’s Get Growing Lash & Brow Serum. Swipe them on your eyebrows, too, if you’d like to thicken those up as well.

DON’T stare at a screen for hours without taking breaks

Sitting at your computer for hours on end is terrible for more than your back (pain, poor posture) and your weight; it also causes digital eye strain, a condition resulting from prolonged exposure to digital devices, including e-readers and smartphones. It is characterized by symptoms including dry, irritated, tired eyes; blurred vision; and headaches. Much of this can be chalked up to lack of blinking. Studies show that the average blink rate decreases from around 15 to 20 blinks per minute to just five to seven blinks per minute while using computers or other screens. Though often overlooked, blinking is essential for healthy vision, keeping eyes lubricated and alleviating the physical strain that can cause headaches and compromise focus.

DO take 20-20-20 blinking breaks

Make a conscious effort to blink. Additionally, every 20 minutes, pause for 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. The former technique will help maintain eye moisture and prevent irritation by spreading your tears evenly across the eye’s surface. The latter strategy reduces eye fatigue by allowing your eyes to relax and refocus.

DON’T excessively rub your eyes

When eyes feel dry or itchy, rubbing them can feel so satisfying that it’s hard to resist. But over the years, excessive eye-rubbing can have profound implications for your vision. First, it can lead to a condition known as keratoconus. This occurs when the cornea, the eye’s clear, protective outer layer, begins to thin and gradually bulge outward into a cone shape. This deformation disrupts how light enters the eye, leading to distorted or blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. Keratoconus can impair vision so significantly that you may require specialized glasses, contact lenses, or even surgery in severe cases.

Chronic eye-rubbing also taxes delicate internal structures, such as the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. That pressure can harm the nerve, impairing vision quality.

DO determine the cause of the rubbing and treat it

Dry eye syndrome, which occurs when the eyes don’t produce enough tears to stay moist, is one of the most under-diagnosed eye conditions. Symptoms include dryness; itchiness; stinging, burning, and redness; the sensation of something gritty in your eye; blurred vision; and sensitivity to light.

It’s more common with age: Most individuals over age 65 will experience symptoms of dry eye at some point. It occurs more frequently in women; users of antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants; residents of windy or dry climates; smokers; people who spend hours a day on a computer (and thus experience reduced blinking); and those with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, thyroid issues, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Ask your eye doctor if you might have dry eye. They may prescribe lubricating drops that encourage your eyes to create more tears, such as GenTeal Tears Lubricant Eye Drops or iVIZIA Sterile Lubricant Eye Drops for Dry Eyes. I’m also a fan of heated eye masks, which use warmth to stimulate production of meibum, an oily substance that naturally occurs in tears and helps prevent them from evaporating. Try CorneaCare’s Self-Heating Warm Compresses or the TearRestore Thermal Masks.

DON’T use off-brand eye drops

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against using off-brand eye drops, specifically naming products like South Moon, Rebright, and FivFivGo, due to potential risks such as eye infections caused by harmful bacteria. These products, which closely imitate Bausch + Lomb’s Lumify drops, are not approved for sale in the United States, and lack Lumify’s active ingredient, brimonidine tartrate. The warning highlights the dangers of counterfeit products.

DO stick with eye care products from reputable sources

Be vigilant when purchasing ophthalmic products. Dr. Lazar recommends state-licensed pharmacies and well-known retail chains. Avoid online companies and websites you’ve never heard of, and always run new products by your eye doctor before using them.

Three Reasons Your Night Driving Vision May Be Worsening 

In a new AARP survey of more than 1,000 Americans ages 50 and older, nearly half of those with vision trouble reported having difficulty seeing at night. This often causes older adults to cut back on nighttime driving. Women, in particular, are more likely to stop driving entirely after dark. Before you hang up your car keys, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:

  1. Outdated prescription. Vision changes over time, so a corrective lens prescription that once offered sharp sight may no longer suffice under the challenging conditions of night driving. An eye exam can determine if you require an updated prescription to better support your night vision.
  2. Dusty windshield interior. When was the last time you cleaned the interior of your windshield? Car washes keep the exterior clear, but a windshield that’s clean on the outside but neglected on the inside can scatter light and intensify glare from oncoming vehicles and streetlights, hindering your night vision. Regularly cleaning both sides can help minimize glare and enhance visibility.
  3. Dry-eye syndrome. Dry eyes act up in low-light conditions. The stark contrast between the darkness and the glare from streetlights and headlights can intensify symptoms, leading to increased light sensitivity and blurred vision. Effective management of dry-eye syndrome, including hydration, artificial tears or prescription treatments, can help.

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