Rubbing eyes when itchy, dry, and irritated can feel so good. Even though rubbing can relieve you, it can also cause severe and long-term problems. So, it is essential to know how rubbing your eyes can be harmful, what is behind your eyes rubbing, and what else you can do to help make your eyes feel better.
Why Rubbing Your Eyes is Bad?
Rubbing itchy eyes may seem harmless, which many of us do from time to time. Doing this can feel so good because it stimulates tear flow and eye lubrication, which offers relief for dry eyes and helps remove dirt and other irritants. In addition, rubbing your eyes can be therapeutic, as pressing down the eyeball stimulates the vagus nerves, which decreases your heart rate, thus relieving stress.
Moreover, our doctors also suggest not rubbing the eyes because rubbing too hard or too frequently might damage the lens of your eye or the cornea. This might worsen your eyesight or give you an infection requiring immediate medical attention. This could damage the structure and vision of your eyes.
5 Reasons to Not Rub Your Eyes
This may feel good but can signify a more severe eye problem. Below are the five reasons to avoid rubbing your eyes.
- Increase Risk of Infection
Bacteria are all around us; our hands are also full of bacteria. Think of everything your hands touch daily: door handles, keyboards, etc. Who knows who touched these items before you, whether or not they had a viral. This is the main reason we need to take care of ourselves. Each time you rub your eyes, you might introduce harmful bacteria or viruses to them. This makes it more likely for you to get pink eye, which can quickly spread to others.
- Can Damage the Cornea
The cornea is transparent and dome-shaped tissue in front of the iris, the colored part of the eye. A smooth, round shape to the cornea is necessary for clear vision. The cornea consists of collagen fibers arranged in layers. If these fibers bend or weaken, it can result in an irregularity in the shape and contour of the cornea. This can make a part look thinner and stick out.
Rubbing the eyes, mainly the knuckle rubbing, is a leading cause of keratoconus. The physical trauma induced by the eye rubbing damages the cornea’s collagen fibers.
- Lead to Dark Circles
Some causes of dark circles around the eyes are fatigue, medications, allergies, age, and anemia. Eye rubbing is another potential cause of dark eye circles. The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate. Rubbing the eyes can damage the blood vessels under the skin’s surface. This may break the vessels and bleed. You will notice the skin getting darker when the blood accumulates in this area. This is a temporary problem but can reoccur with episodes of eye rubbing.
- Develop Wrinkles Faster
As mentioned above, the skin around our eyes is fragile and delicate. Our skin loses some elasticity with age, resulting in wrinkle development. Rubbing the eyes can stretch this tissue prematurely, loosening the skin around your eyes and developing wrinkles.
- Worsen the Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve of the eye. This nerve helps send what your eyes see to your brain’s back part, where it turns into pictures. When glaucoma happens, parts of this nerve get hurt. This makes some parts of your vision disappear. As glaucoma worsens, more of your vision can vanish, and it might even make you go blind.
Doctors treat glaucoma by reducing the pressure inside your eye. They can do this with medicine, lasers, or surgery. When the pressure in your eye goes up and down during the day, it can worsen glaucoma. Studies have found that rubbing your eyes hard can significantly raise the pressure in your eyes. So, if you keep rubbing your eyes, it could make your glaucoma worse.
Ways to Stop Rubbing Your Eyes
The best way to avoid rubbing your eyes is to treat the underlying cause that makes them itchy. Treatment can include:
Over-the-counter medication: Regular eye drops or a simple saline solution can help clean your eyes and wash away any dirt causing discomfort.
Prescription medication: A doctor will prescribe a particular medicine if you have a specific eye problem like conjunctivitis. Sometimes, if you have allergies, you might need treatment or shots.
You can also put a warm, damp cloth on your eyes to ease irritation.
If you keep rubbing your eyes for no reason, here are some ideas:
- Pay attention to your hands and stop yourself from rubbing.
- If you can’t resist, wear gloves or mittens to make it harder to rub your eyes.
- Find something else to do with your hands, like squeezing a stress ball or rubbing a smooth rock.
When to Seek Medical Help?
You may often treat dry eyes or eye allergies with simple home remedies. But if they aren’t relieving, consult an eye care specialist. You should also seek medical care if you have eye pain, redness, blurry vision or if your symptoms worsen. If someone under age 20 is rubbing their eyes a lot, it is suggested to see an eye professional immediately.
The Bottom Line
Rubbing your eyes when itchy or irritated can make you feel better. But that’s a short-term solution that can lead to serious eye problems. A better idea? Determine what’s causing you to rub your eyes, whether it’s an allergy, dry eyes, or another issue. Then, treat the cause so you no longer need to rub your eyes.