We all rub our eyes at some point: because we’re tired, because we have allergies or a cold, because our contacts are dry, or because we feel something may be in them and we want to get out the debris. Whatever the reason, it can feel good to do so.
Rubbing stimulates the flow of tears, causing lubrication for dry eyes and removal of irritants. Rubbing your eyes is also seemingly therapeutic, as applying gentle pressure to the eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve, which slows your heart rate and relieves stress.
But all that rubbing is really not good for your eyes, and here’s why.
- Rubbing causes tiny blood vessels to break, giving you blood-shot eyes and dark circles that make you look tired all the time.
- Your hands are teeming with more germs than any other part of your body. When you put your fingers in your eyes, you’re transferring all those germs that can result in infections such as conjunctivitis.
- If you attempt to dig out a foreign body that’s stuck in your eye, you could be doing more damage than good. This is an easy way to scratch your delicate cornea.
- Rubbing can be particularly dangerous to those with pre-existing eye conditions, such as progressive myopia that worsens with rubbing. People with glaucoma can aggravate their condition by rubbing, which can disrupt blood flow to the back of the eye, leading to nerve damage and possibly even permanent vision loss.
- Studies have shown that continuous eye rubbing can result in thinning of the cornea, which becomes weakened and pushes forward, becoming more conical. This serious condition is called keratoconus, and can lead to distorted vision and possibly the need for a corneal graft.
How to Stop
If something feels like it’s stuck in your eye, you should first try to flush it out with sterile saline or artificial tears. Take out your contacts and check for debris or rips. If you still don’t get relief from these things, make an appointment with your doctor.
The best remedy is prevention. Every time you go to touch your eye, stop yourself. Think of the dangers. Keep eye drops handy at all times instead. This will keep your eyes hydrated and will prevent itching.
There are many types of drops to try: artificial tears, which are non-medicated and imitate natural tears available over the counter; anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizers; and steroid eye drops that can prevent chronic eye rubbing in allergy sufferers.
Excessive eye rubbing should be avoided if possible. See your doctor if this is becoming a problem.
Contact Simon Eye Associates
Do you rub your eyes a lot? There could be more going on. Just contact us at 302-239-1933 and make an appointment with one of our specialists.