Brits helping the “Eyes’ Enemies” with poor hygiene

Latest research shows too many Brits are neglecting their eyes and causing risk of irritation and infection.

Women are particularly bad when it comes to good practice with make-up, as the new research by Optegra specialist eye hospital group reveals:

• A quarter (25 per cent) of British women admit to sharing eye make-up
• A shocking 8 in 10 (80 per cent) female make-up wearers choose to wear eye shadow over 12 months old and 70 per cent use mascara over a year old
• Over half (52 per cent) of women who buy premium brand make up would wear it for longer than the use-by date
• While 19.2 per cent did not even realise there is a recommended use by date

The research also exposes that Brits are making key mistakes when it comes to eye hygiene;

• Over a quarter of Brits (28.3 per cent) do not always wash their face before bed
• Less than one in 10 (8.7 per cent) of adults always wash their hands before touching or rubbing their eyes
• Almost half (45.7 per cent) admitting they have shared a flannel or towel
• And over one in ten men (13 per cent) confessing they never wash their face before bed.

Experts at Optegra, the specialist eye hospital group, believe we can help maintain good eye health by knowing the eyes’ key enemies.

Yet the new research shows that Brits do not recognise what is a risk to the eyes:

• Only half of British men (50 per cent) realise sleeping in contacts is bad for the eyes
• Only 26.5 per cent of Brits know showering in contacts is bad for the eyes
• Only 37 per cent appreciate make-up can harm eyes
• Only 4 in 10 know that you should not use the same cotton wool on both eyes
• Only 57 per cent of Brits realise smoking can damage eyes

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Sundeep Kheterpal, from Optegra eye hospital group says: “It is so easy to neglect the eyes, even though many regard sight as the most precious of senses. Everyday actions like not washing your face thoroughly, leaving contacts in too long, or rubbing eyes with hands that have not been washed can cause problems.

“Just consider how many germs are on your hands from any outing, say to the shops, where you touch doors, money, public transport, car park machines and so on.

“It is estimated there are between 10,000 and 10 million bacteria on each hand so we should always wash our hands before handling contact lenses or touching eyes for any reason – yet less than one in 10 adults always wash their hands before rubbing or touching their eyes. It is so easily done, but I have seen many cases of infections starting off in this way.”

So what does a healthy eye consider to be its main enemies? Here is Optegra’s Top Ten guide.

1. Sharing! Unfortunately it’s not always good to share, particularly when it comes to towels and make up as this can lead to eye infections such as conjunctivitis. Germs thrive in dark environments, such as mascara tubes, and can also be transferred via make up brushes, flannels and towels.

2. Out with the old. Cosmetics normally contain preservatives to help prevent bacteria growth but storing them in a hot place will make it easy for bacteria to thrive. Get into good make-up hygiene habits by sharpening eye pencils between applications, washing brushes regularly and turning out old make up. Products do label their shelf life, but many ignore this. As a guide:
• Mascara and liquid eyeliner – discard after three months
• Liquid foundation, creamy eye shadow and blusher – discard after six months
• Pencil eyeliner, lip liner, powder eye shadow/blusher/bronzer – can last up to two years but don’t share!

3. Rubbing your eyes with dirty hands increases the chances of transferring germs, contracting eye infections and causing corneal abrasions which are painful scratches on the surface of the eye. And our hands are almost always dirty! Germs aside, rubbing your eyes excessively can lead to irritation or corneal abrasion.

4. Going to bed with a dirty face, such as not removing make up, means that any foreign particles sitting on the surface of our face can come into contact with the eye, causing irritation, redness or inflammation. An oily face and oily eyelids (blepharitis) can also cause sore irritable and dry eyes. Facial cleanliness is vital for good eye hygiene so don’t be tempted to skip washing your face at night, no matter how tired you are. Wash earlier before you are too tired to bother!

5. Too much contact? While many Brits depend on contact lenses for everyday vision, it is vital to follow the rules. Swimming and showering in contacts should be avoided, keeping them in overnight can increase the risk of infection, while comfort and performance will be affected if you extend the life of lenses beyond the recommended replacement interval. Wearing dirty or damaged lenses can put eye health at risk.

6. Smoke from the BBQ or cigarettes can irritate eyes and worsen dry eye – people who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have dry eyes and even second hand smoke can be an irritant to eyes as it can make dry eyes even worse.

7. Screen fatigue occurs when you stare at a screen for long periods of time and results in sore, itchy, tired eyes, headaches and temporary blurring. 90per cent of VDU users say they regularly suffer screen fatigue – follow the 20-20-20 rule to avoid this: focus on something 20 metres away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.

8. Protect from power tools. Protect your eyes just as you would other parts of the body by wearing protective glasses when doing serious DIY, or gardening with power tools. We think of hands and toes, but damage to eyes is a serious risk.

9. Watch what you eat and drink. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health conditions which can have a detrimental effect on your eye health. Instead, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain optimum eye health as dehydration can lead to dry, sore and irritated eyes.

Poor diet can also seriously affect our vision. Antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C & E may help to prevent age-related vision problems.

10. Sweet summer. The sun can be very damaging for eyes if they are not protected. Cumulative UV exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration so always protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses showing the CE mark. Never look directly at the sun. Sunbed users should always wear protective goggles as the UV damage caused by sunbed lamps can cause long-term damage and growths in the eyes, as well as skin cancer. And in hayfever season, the pollen can really bother eyes, so dose up well on antihistamine.

Optegra’s Sundeep Kheterpal concludes: “There are so many elements of everyday activities which can have a huge impact on our eye health and hygiene. It’s important to be aware of good hygiene as it’s so easy to slip into bad habits like sharing towels, eye drops, and rubbing eyes.

“It’s also important not to ignore any changes in your eyes, as this can lead to an early diagnosis for eye problems and can be key for successful treatment if there is an underlying problem. We recommend that adults should have an eyesight test every two years even if you think your vision hasn’t changed.”

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