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Bad Habits That Could Turn You Blind Say Experts

You could be wrecking your eyesight and not even know it.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Paying attention to our eyesight isn't something most people think about until something goes awry. While most of us won't have 20/20 vision, our lifestyle choices could hinder how well we see. According to experts, everyday habits can increase the risk of poor eye health. "Poor vision can significantly impact one's quality of life, and in some cases, it can even lead to blindness. Many different health habits can cause or contribute to poor vision, so it is essential to be aware of the potential risks," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Blindness and Vision Impairment

Mature woman takes off her glasses and massages eyes.

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Though the definition of blindness varies, the World Health Organization defines blindness as visual acuity worse than or equal to 20/400 in the better eye with the best possible correction or a visual field restricted to less than 20 degrees in the better eye. According to the WHO, globally, about 36 million people are blind. Of those 36 million people, about 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. In contrast, only about 1 million people who are blind live in high-income countries. The most common causes of blindness worldwide are unaddressed refractive error and cataracts.

In the United States, according to the National Federation of the Blind, it is estimated that when one takes into account all forms of blindness and vision impairment, over 7 million people in the United States are affected by blindness or vision loss. Of those 7 million people, it is estimated that approximately 3.5 million are completely blind, while the remaining 3.5 million have some sight. The most common causes of blindness and vision impairment in America are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. While there is no cure for blindness, it is essential to note many of the causes of blindness."


Not Wearing Protective Eyewear

A man in medical face mask (respirator) and safety glasses outdoors

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Whether working with power tools or playing sports, it is essential to wear protective eyewear to prevent serious eye injuries. According to the National Eye Institute, around 1.5 million Americans have vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. While some causes of vision loss, such as age-related macular degeneration, are not preventable, many others are. One of the most common preventable causes of vision loss is not wearing protective eyewear.

Without proper protection, our eyes are susceptible to various injuries that can lead to blindness. For example, flying debris or chemicals can cause severe burns to the eye's surface, while exposure to ultraviolet light can damage the retina over time. Even exposure to bright light can lead to temporary vision loss.

Fortunately, wearing the proper protective eyewear prevents all of these injuries. In particular, safety glasses or goggles should be worn when working with dangerous chemicals or flying debris. Those who work outdoors or spend time in brightly lit environments should also consider wearing sunglasses or other types of protective eyewear. By taking these simple precautions, we can help protect our eyesight and prevent vision loss."


Rubbing Your Eyes

Woman in glasses rubs her eyes, suffering from tired eyes

"The eyes are one of the most delicate organs in the body, and rubbing them can damage the soft tissues around the eye," Dr. Mitchell emphasizes. "This can lead to vision problems and blindness. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people avoid rubbing their eyes, as it can cause irreversible damage. Instead, they suggest using artificial tears or eye drops to relieve symptoms such as dryness or irritation. If you must rub your eyes, do so gently and with clean hands. Please avoid using your fingers, as they can transfer bacteria and other harmful substances to your eyes. Taking these precautions will help to protect your eyes and keep them healthy. Rubbing your eyes can damage the delicate tissues around the eye, leading to vision problems."



no smoking sign

Dr. Mitchell reminds us, "Smoking is a leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, and its effects are far-reaching. In addition to causing cancer and other serious health problems, smoking also contributes to vision loss. Studies have shown that smokers are four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration than nonsmokers and are also at increased risk for cataracts. Smoking damages the blood vessels in the eye, making them less able to supply oxygen and nutrients to the retina. Over time, this damage can lead to vision loss or even blindness. Quitting smoking is the best way to reduce the risk of vision problems, and it's never too late to start. Quitting smoking can help improve your overall health and protect your vision for years to come."


Exposure to UV Light (Excess Time in the Sun)

woman applying sunscreen lotion standing outdoors at the urban location during the sunny weather

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can lead to photokeratitis, in which the cornea becomes inflamed. This can cause pain, redness, tearing, and blurred vision. In severe cases, photokeratitis can lead to permanent eye damage and blindness. The risk of developing this condition is increased by spending time in high-altitude areas with intense UV radiation, such as the mountains or the beach. Certain medications and medical conditions can also make the eyes more susceptible to UV damage. For example, certain autoimmune disorders can cause the cornea to become thinner, making it more vulnerable to photokeratitis. To protect your eyes from UV damage, wear sunglasses or other protective eyewear when spending time outdoors.

Exposure to UV light can lead to several eye problems, including blindness. Macular degeneration is the most common form of blindness caused by UV light exposure. This condition occurs when the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision, deteriorates. Symptoms of macular degeneration include blurry or distorted vision and difficulty reading or recognizing faces. The condition can lead to complete loss of central vision in severe cases. Other forms of blindness caused by UV light exposure include cataracts and pinguecula. Cataracts occur when the eye's lens becomes clouded, making it difficult to see. Pinguecula are growths on the whites of the eyes that can block vision. Exposure to UV light is also a leading cause of pterygium, a condition in which tissue grows over the cornea, the eye's clear front surface. Pterygium can cause inflammation and redness, as well as distortion of vision.

Too much exposure to ultraviolet light can damage the retina and lead to vision problems. Therefore, it is essential to wear sunglasses and hats when outdoors and to avoid tanning beds."


Poor Nutrition

man eating a burger

"Poor nutrition is a significant cause of blindness worldwide," Dr. Mitchell says. "A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to serious eye problems, including dry eyes, cataracts, and glaucoma. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and can also cause night blindness in adults. Vitamin A is essential for good vision and can be found in plenty of healthy foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Other essential nutrients for eye health include vitamins C and E, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a diet rich in these nutrients can help to keep your eyes healthy and prevent vision problems. Of course, poor nutrition isn't the only cause of blindness – other factors like genetics and age can also play a role. But if you want to keep your eyesight strong, eating a nutritious diet is essential."


Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Lead to Blindness

Sad woman drinking wine at kitchen.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Alcohol use can lead to many health problems, including liver damage, cancer, and heart disease. However, alcohol can blinds people. The very thing that gives you a pleasant buzz can also take away your sight. It's not just hard liquor, either. So beer, wine, and other fermented drinks can all lead to blindness if you consume too much. How does this happen? Alcohol inhibits the production of vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy vision; without it, your eyes can start to deteriorate. This can lead to night blindness, a condition where you have difficulty seeing in low light. If left untreated, it can progress to full-blown blindness. Alcohol also damages the optic nerve, which carries signals from your eye to your brain. This damage can cause irreversible vision loss.

So how much alcohol is too much? That depends on several factors, including your age, weight, and how often you drink. But as a general rule of thumb, it's best to limit yourself to no more than two drinks per day. And if you're going to drink that much, it's important to space out your drinks so that your body has time to process the alcohol and prevent it from damaging your eyes.

Alcohol abuse can cause several eye problems, including vision loss and damage to the optic nerve. In addition, alcohol withdrawal can cause visual hallucinations, known as delirium tremens. These hallucinations can be so severe that they lead to blindness.

Moonshine is a type of alcohol distilled from fermented grain or fruit mash. It is typically made in an unregulated environment, leading to impurities in the final product. These impurities can include methanol, which is toxic to the human body. In high enough concentrations, methanol can cause blindness. When moonshine is consumed, the liver converts the methanol into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is then transported to the optic nerve, where it destroys myelin, the protective sheath around the nerve fibers. This damage leads to vision loss and, in severe cases, blindness. Although moonshine has been around for centuries, its dangers are still not widely known. As a result, moonshine-related blindness continues to be a problem in many parts of the world.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, getting help as soon as possible is essential to avoid these potentially devastating consequences."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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