What Are the Risks of Rubbing Your Eyes?

Many of us rub our eyes when we're tired, but the risks of rubbing your eyes aren't worth it. Not only can it lead to infection, it can also damage your vision. So why do we do it? Rubbing your eyes can feel good when you are groggy, first wake up in the morning, or are suffering from eye strain after reading or staring at a computer for long periods of time. Rubbing the eye stimulates it in two ways. Lubrication from tears can relieve feelings of dryness, while pressing on the eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve, which can relieve stress and slow your heart rate. Now we know why it feels good—but what are the risks of rubbing your eyes?

Spreading Bacteria

One of the biggest risks of rubbing your eyes is spreading bacteria and germs into them. Your hands carry the most germs of any part of your body, and touching your eyes and face can spread them easily. Your eyelids and lashes protect your eyes from some bacteria, but touching or rubbing them can lead to infections like conjunctivitis (pink eye). The National Eye Institute recommends you always practice proper eye hygiene by washing your hands before you touch your eyes to insert contact lenses or apply makeup.

Scratching Your Corneas

Another risk of rubbing your eyes is the danger of damaging your corneas. According to EyeSmart, a fleck of dust or makeup that gets into your eye can easily cause a corneal abrasion if you rub it. This can lead to a scratch or a tear in your cornea, which can permanently damage your vision or lead to a serious infection.

Damaging Your Vision

If you have an eye condition, such as glaucoma or progressive myopia (caused by lengthened eyeballs), rubbing your eyes can make it worse. Patients with glaucoma may disrupt the blood flow in their eyes by increasing the pressure on the eyeball, which can lead to nerve damage and permanent vision loss. Rubbing your eyes can also lead to thinning corneas (keratoconus), which can cause poor vision and an eventual need for a corneal graft.

Bloodshot Eyes

Last but not least, rubbing your eyes can break their blood vessels, leaving you with bloodshot eyes and dark undereye circles. No one wants that.

The best way to prevent the desire to rub your eyes is to keep them lubricated with artificial tears or saline solution. If you get something stuck in your eye and can't flush it out with saline, contact your doctor.

For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.