Everyday errors that hurt your health

eye protection
Justin Matthews of Medford puts in contacts. Photo by Dustin Peters.

The eyes are one of the most important and complex organs in the body. From too much screen time to improper contact lens care, Dr. Helen Koenigsman at Medford Medical Eye Center and Dr. Jeffrey Welder of Siskiyou Eye Center in Ashland explain why these habits are harmful for your eyes.

Q. When I don’t have solution available, I sometimes use saliva to wet my contact lenses. Is this safe?

A. Dr. Welder: No. Your mouth is full of bacteria, so saliva isn’t sterile. When you spit onto your contacts and put them in your eyes, it could cause an infection.

Q. Should I use only the lens solution to clean my contact lenses?

A. Dr. Koenigsman: Yes, use a designated solution to clean your contacts and remove bacteria. Dispose of the case every month because there could be bacteria or residue on it. Also, wash your hands before handling your contact lenses or touching your eyes.

Q. I forgot to remove my contacts before swimming. Could this harm my eyes?

A. Dr. Welder: Yes, especially when you swim in a lake or river. Bacteria from the water could get trapped between the lens and the eye, and lead to an infection.

Q. I work on the computer a lot. Is too much screen time bad for my eyes?

A. Dr. Koenigsman: Yes. It strains your eyes because they are constantly active when staring at a screen. When you’re doing something visually taxing, like working on the computer, you forget to blink frequently, which can cause dry eye. I suggest using the 20-20-20 rule — for every 20 minutes you’re looking at a screen, take a 20 second break and focus on something 20 feet away. This relaxes your eyes.

Q. Does protective eyewear keep my eyes safe while I work?

A. Dr. Welder: Yes. You need proper eye protection for any task where particles are flying around, like woodworking, metalworking or mowing the lawn. If a piece of metal or wood gets imbedded on the surface of your eye, it causes pain and blurry vision. You especially don’t want to get metal in your eye, because metal rusts and causes inflammation. When patients come in with something imbedded on their eye, I give them a numbing shot and then use some cotton swabs and forceps to pull it out.

Q. I squint often. Is this bad?

A. Dr. Koenigsman: There’s nothing harmful about squinting, but it’s an indication you need glasses, contact lenses or a new prescription.

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