Why Rubbing Your Eyes Is a Mistake

woman rubbing eyes

It’s a natural instinct to rub your eyes. If your eyes are itchy or tired, rubbing them can provide temporary relief. In fact, there is some science behind why we have the inclination to rub our eyes. A gentle eye rub prompts your eyes to secrete tears, which can provide relief if they’re dry or itchy. What’s more, light pressure on the eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve and trigger the oculocardiac reflex, slowing your heart to relieve stress. So, if it offers these benefits, rubbing your eye must be a good idea, right? Actually, no. As good as it feels to rub your eyes, doing so can result in short-term or even permanent damage.

  • Rubbing your eyes can introduce bacteria. Your hands come into contact with many different surfaces. You touch doorknobs, computer keys, indoor and outdoor surfaces, and pets. All of these surfaces can host bacteria, so touching your eyes without washing your hands can expose them to infection.
  • You can make your allergies worse by rubbing your eyes. Your eyelashes do a good job of keeping contaminants out of your eyes, so there’s a reasonable chance that allergens are hanging around in your eyelashes. Rub your eyes, and you’ll transfer those allergens into your eyes! What’s more, an allergic response involves the release of histamine, triggering the red, itchy, watery eyes of an allergic reaction. When you rub the eyes, you prompt the body to release more histamine, making your eyes feel worse.
  • Rubbing your eyes can put too much pressure on them. Your eyes are delicate, and even things like wiping away tears or removing makeup can more than double the amount of pressure placed on them. Rubbing them aggressively? That increases eye pressure by up to 20 times. That pressure usually returns to normal after the rubbing stops, but for people with some eye conditions, it can seriously damage their vision. People with progressive myopia may worsen their vision by rubbing their eyes and can even detach their retina. Worse, prolonged rubbing increases your risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Sometimes rubbing the eye can cause retinal detachment, even without underlying medical conditions. The retina is a paper thin film lining the back of the eye, and any trauma to the eye can detach it. If you start seeing flashes, floaters, or a blacking out of your vision, you may have a detached retina.
  • You can give yourself dark circles by rubbing your eyes. The skin around the eyes is delicate; rubbing it can cause tiny blood vessels to break. This leads to dark circles, puffiness, and even crow’s feet and drooping eyelids. Dark circles can also be caused by illness, allergies, alcohol consumption, prolonged tobacco use, and even excessive salt intake.
  • Keratoconus is a disease that may be caused by eye rubbing. Rubbing your eyes constantly can weaken the collagen that helps your cornea keep its shape, resulting in keratoconus, in which the cornea bows out and forms a cone shape.

Taking good care of your eyes means keeping your hands off of them. It also means finding the right eye doctor and scheduling regular eye exams. If you’re looking for an ophthalmologist or optometrist in Derry, Londonderry, Windham, or Raymond, Spindel Eye Associates is here for you. Celebrating over thirty-five years of eye care, we proudly provide our patients with personalized eye care, using top of the line technology. For more information or to schedule an appointment call 603.421.6536 or contact us through our website.