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Eye care

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Wear eye protection whenever you are at risk of getting chemicals or materials in your eyes: at work, when playing sport or at home.
  • Protect your eyes from dangerous UV rays by wearing sunglasses with good UV protection and a sun hat.
  • Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands. This will reduce the risk of you getting an infection.
  • Eye discharge should be gently cleaned using a cotton wool pad soaked in clean cool water. Use a different pad for each eye.
  • Visit an optometrist for have an eye test, even if you’re healthy and have no eye symptoms, but especially if you are over 40, smoke or have diabetes.

There are simple steps you can take to care for your eyes, and to protect them with essential eye care habits every day. Here are some things you can do to care for and help protect your eyes.

How can I protect my eyes at work and at home?

If you work in an environment where there’s a risk of getting something in your eyes (such as dust, wood chips, metal fragments or chemicals), protect your eyes by wearing a face visor or a pair of wrap-around goggles. You may also want to ask your employer to provide protective clothing.

It’s also a good idea to wear eye protection when playing sport and at home when using garden equipment, cleaning or working with chemicals.

How can I protect my eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light?

Wear sunglasses with good UV protection and a sun hat.

UV light can lead to cataracts and an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration.

How can I avoid eye infections?

Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands. This will reduce the risk of you getting an infection. It’s a good idea to wash your hands with warm soapy water before and after touching your eyes.

Try to avoid rubbing or scratching your eyes as this can also lead to an infection.

Avoid sharing things like towels, face washers or make-up as this could pass on an infection. Use your own personal items and try to make sure no one else uses yours.

How do I prevent allergic eye symptoms?

If your eye discomfort is triggered by allergies, try to avoid the cause of your allergic reaction. Common triggers include fur, dust, pollen and certain foods. If you are allergic to pollen or other outdoor airborne allergens, wear sunglasses outside to avoid pollen getting into your eyes.

How can I clean my eyes safely?

Any eye discharge should be gently cleaned from the eye area using a cotton wool pad soaked in clean water. Use a different pad for each eye. Always wipe from the corner of the eye (nearest the nose) outwards to prevent passing any infection into the other eye.

How can I manage sore eyes?

A cold compress may soothe your eyes. A clean damp face washer soaked in very cool water is ideal.

What if I wear contact lenses?

Take care when inserting and removing contact lenses from your eyes. Always follow the instructions from your optometrist when cleaning your lenses and avoid wearing them for long periods of time. Take them out before you sleep and always wash your hands before touching your lenses.

If your eyes become sore, remove your contact lenses and leave them out until all signs and symptoms of discomfort have gone. Infections and irritations caused by contact lenses can be serious, so if your symptoms don’t improve after you remove your contact lenses you should see your optometrist as soon as possible.

What other tips will help care for my eye health?

Be careful with screens

Try to sit at least an arm’s length from a desktop computer screen and don’t hold a screen too close to your eyes. Give your eyes a rest every 20 minutes by looking at something 6 metres away for around 20 seconds. Make sure the room is well lit and that there isn’t a reflection on the screen.

Have regular eye tests

If you’re over 40 years of age, you should visit an optometrist for an eye test every 2 to 3 years, even if you’re healthy and have no eye symptoms. If you have diabetes, are over 60 or have a family history of eye conditions, ask your optometrist whether you need to test more often.

Children should also have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and throughout primary and secondary school.

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Take extra care if you have diabetes

Having diabetes puts you at a higher risk of developing some eye conditions. Have regular eye tests and always ensure that your blood sugar levels and blood pressure are as well controlled as possible. If you have diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing eye problems.

Get help to quit smoking

Smoking is linked to increased risk of several eye conditions including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, thyroid eye disease and general eye irritations. If you smoke, try to cut down or quit. Call the Quitline on 13 7848 or talk to your pharmacist or doctor to help you quit smoking.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Foods containing antioxidants (for example, green leafy vegetables), omega-3 fatty acids (for example, tuna and salmon), vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals like zinc and selenium may help prevent macular degeneration. Regular exercise will help prevent diabetes.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022


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