The Surprising Effects of Eye Rubbing: Why It's More Than Just a Bad Habit

Many of us have experienced the irresistible urge to rub our eyes, whether it's due to tiredness, allergies, or simply out of habit. It may seem harmless, but did you know that eye rubbing can have surprising effects on our vision and overall eye health?

Let's talk about the consequences of eye rubbing and why it's essential to break this seemingly innocent habit.

  1. Corneal Abrasions:

Rubbing your eyes vigorously can lead to corneal abrasions, which are small scratches on the surface of the cornea, the clear front layer of your eye. The cornea is responsible for focusing light onto the retina, and any damage to this delicate structure can cause discomfort, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. These abrasions can also increase the risk of eye infections if bacteria from your hands enter the eye.

  1. Eye Pressure and Glaucoma:

Applying pressure to your eyes while rubbing can elevate intraocular pressure. For individuals with pre-existing conditions like glaucoma, this can be particularly problematic. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve, and increased eye pressure is a major risk factor for its progression. Consistent eye rubbing can worsen this condition and lead to irreversible vision loss.

  1. Progression of Myopia:

For individuals with myopia (nearsightedness), eye rubbing may have a subtle but negative impact on the progression of the condition. While rubbing doesn't directly cause myopia, excessive eye rubbing during childhood has been associated with increased axial length of the eye, which is linked to the progression of myopia. Minimizing eye rubbing, especially among children, may help slow down myopia progression.

  1. Dark Circles and Puffy Eyes:

The skin around our eyes is delicate and thin, making it prone to damage. Vigorous eye rubbing can cause the blood vessels around the eyes to dilate, leading to dark circles and puffiness. Additionally, the repetitive motion of rubbing can stretch the skin, potentially contributing to premature aging around the eyes.

  1. Risk of Keratoconus:

Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that causes the cornea to thin and bulge into a cone shape, leading to distorted vision. While the exact cause of keratoconus is not entirely understood, eye rubbing has been suggested as a possible contributing factor. Avoiding eye rubbing, especially in individuals with a family history of keratoconus, may help reduce the risk of developing this condition.


Eye rubbing may seem harmless, but its effects can extend far beyond momentary relief. From corneal abrasions to the progression of myopia and the risk of glaucoma and keratoconus, consistent eye rubbing can have serious consequences for our vision and eye health. Instead of resorting to this reflexive habit, try using artificial tears to soothe dry or irritated eyes and wash your hands regularly to prevent the transfer of bacteria to your eyes. If you experience persistent eye discomfort or vision changes, consult an eye care professional for a thorough evaluation. Taking good care of our eyes now can help preserve our vision and eye health for years to come.