Going to college and perhaps living in a dormitory can be an exciting and hectic time for students. But, it’s worth mentioning some common-sense tips to preserve eye health and avoid eye problems for college students. College students can be susceptible to a host of vision and eye problems such as injury, infection and increased nearsightedness that can be avoided with a little bit of “smarts” and awareness.

Don’t Shower or Swim with Contact Lenses. Acanthamoeba is a parasite that lives in water and can cause a rare but serious eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. According to the CDC, 85 percent of Acanthamoeba eye infections occur in contact lens wearers, one of the main risks being exposure of lenses to water. To avoid this dangerous infection, do not wear contact lenses in showers, hot tubs or when swimming in lakes or pools. Also, never use water to clean or store contact lenses; only use sterile contact lens disinfecting solution and a clean contact lens case.

Get Out. We all want you to get good grades, but spending much of their time studying indoors, puts you at risk of becoming more nearsighted, or myopic. A recent study found that more than 50 percent of college graduates are nearsighted, with vision worsening for each year in school. Other research shows that spending more time outdoors can protect vision from getting worse. Take a break-get outside when possible.

Wash Your Hands. Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye” spreads fast in schools and dorms. We know of a report where an outbreak struck more than 1,000 Ivy League college students! Avoid rubbing the eyes and wash hands with soap to avoid catching and spreading pink eye, not to mention other infections.

Give Your Eyes a Break. Dry eye from intense long hours of computer or video display terminal use can be a real problem for college students. To help avoid dry eye symptoms of burning, gritty red eyes, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Because dry eye can also cause painful corneal ulcers, which are open sores on the front part of the eye, blink regularly and fully to keep eyes moist.

Don’t Share Makeup. Harmless as it may seem, sharing makeup is a surefire way to spread infection such as herpes keratitis among friends. Infection-causing bacteria grow easily in creamy or liquid eye makeup. Stick to your own makeup and throw it away after three months. If you develop an eye infection, immediately toss all of your eye makeup.

Stay in the Game. Did you know that nearly 1 in 18 college athletes will get an eye injury playing sports? Common injuries, like scratches on the eye surface and broken bones near the eye socket, happen most often in high-risk sports such as baseball, basketball and lacrosse. Athletes should consider wearing polycarbonate sports glasses to help keep stray balls and elbows from hitting their eyes.

In college, taking care of their eye health may be the last thing on your mind but we wanted to share some common-sense tips. If you or someone you experience an eye health or vision problem please call your local optometrist to schedule an appointment. If specialty care, treatment or surgery is required, please ask to be referred to one of the physicians at Eyecare Medical Group.