Can Rubbing Your Dry Eyes Be Harmful to Your Eye Health?

Why Do People Rub Their Eyes?

When’s the last time you rubbed your eyes? Most people would likely answer that they do it daily and while that could be excessive, it’s all-too-normal in the world today. In fact, there are numerous reasons why we might rub our eyes and while some are reasonable, others aren’t. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why people rub their eyes:

  • Hay fever, cold, or fever symptoms
  • Feeling tired, exhausted, or groggy
  • It’s therapeutic since it stimulates the vagus nerve
  • Dry eyes, itchy eyes, or irritated eyes
  • Rubbing the eyes stimulates tears and lubricates the eye
  • Symptoms of an eye infection, such as pink eye or conjunctivitis
  • Symptoms of eye allergies, such as blepharitis
  • Rubbing the eyes out of habit, natural instinct, or reflex
  • Irritation of contact lenses
  • Blurry or distorted vision

Although rubbing your eyes might be therapeutic at times, there’s almost always a healthier, safer, and more effective way of relieving the itch or irritation. When possible, you should avoid rubbing your eyes as it can cause a wide range of eye problems – especially when excessive.

The Dangers of Rubbing Your Eyes

There are a lot of reasons why someone might rub their eyes, but most people aren’t aware of the risks and danger involved in doing so. No matter what the reason is, rubbing your eyes can actually make pre-existing eye conditions worse and may even lead to new eye problems and conditions. 

Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of continuous eye rubbing:

  • Broken tiny blood vessels can result in bloodshot eyes, dark under-eye circles, and/or wrinkles
  • Rubbing the eyes welcomes bacteria and germs around the eye, which can cause an infection.
  • If you rub your eyes because there’s a foreign body or object inside them, it can damage the cornea through abrasion.
  • Rubbing the eyes can make progressive myopia worse in some individuals.
  • Rubbing the eyes can increase eye pressure, disrupt blood flow, and result in nerve damage in those with glaucoma.
  • Rubbing the eyes can result in thinning of the cornea (keratoconus) and cause distorted vision.
  • Since rubbing the eyes causes an increase in intraocular pressure, it increases the risk of a retinal tear or retinal detachment.
  • Rubbing the eyes will make allergy symptoms worse since histamine is released.

It’s important to realize that there’s a reason why you’re rubbing your eyes. Figuring out that reason is essential to correcting the underlying problem – that way, you can avoid rubbing your eyes in the future. If you can do that, then you can put your eyes in a position to stay healthy.

Tips to Prevent Chronic Eye-Rubbing

Now that we understand why people rub their eyes, the dangers of rubbing your eyes, and when you should see an eye doctor about excessive or chronic eye-rubbing, it’s time to go over some prevention tips that everyone can find useful. With prevention comes improved eye health, which is crucial.

Let’s take a look at some of our most prominent prevention tips to avoid rubbing your eyes:

  • Use artificial tears (eyedrops) regularly to keep the eyes lubricated and keep the eyes hydrated, and help flush out harmful agents.
  • Resist the urge to rub your eyes and beware of what you’re doing with your hands (especially near your eyes).
  • If rubbing your eyes out of habit, consider finding an alternative (fidget spinner, stress ball, etc.).
  • If you need to, consider doing warm compresses to the eye instead of rubbing. 
  • Your doctor might prescribe eye drops (antihistamine eye drops or mast cell stabilizers) to prevent itchy eyes.
  • Your doctor might prescribe steroid eye drops to prevent eye-rubbing.

The eyes work miracles every single day by giving us our vision and eyesight. With that said, they’re not perfect and must be properly cared for on a daily basis. By putting in a little effort each and every day, you can put your eyes in a better position to stay healthy long-term.

Sourced from Coastal Eye Surgeons