F
G
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Patient/Carer Notice
eyeMatters periodic news
Subscribe

Bringing you the latest news & resources in eye health

Article Article

The dangers of rubbing your eyes

25/07/2017

Young woman sitting in front of laptop with glasses in one hand and rubbing others with the other

Rubbing your eyes may seem like a relatively harmless thing to do.

Most of us do it regularly, whether we are suffering from hay fever or a common cold, or are just feeling tired and groggy. Rubbing stimulates tears to flow, lubricating dry eyes and removing dust and other irritants.

Rubbing your eyes can also be therapeutic. Pressing down on your eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve, which slows down your heart rate, relieving stress.

However, if you rub your eyes too often or too hard, you can cause damage in a number of ways …

What damage can rubbing my eyes cause?

  • To start with, rubbing your eyes can play havoc with your appearance! It causes tiny blood vessels to break, resulting in blood-shot eyes and those dark, unsightly circles that everyone is always trying to avoid.
  • Your hands carry more germs than many other parts of your body. When you rub your eye, these germs are easily transferred and can result in infections like conjunctivitis. Read more about conjunctivitis.
  • Sometimes people get a foreign body stuck in their eye and the natural instinct is to rub it to try and remove the object. However, rubbing against the object can very easily scratch and damage the cornea.
  • Rubbing is most dangerous in people with certain pre-existing eye conditions. People with progressive myopia (a type of short-sightedness caused by a lengthened eyeball) may find that rubbing worsens their eyesight. Similarly, those with glaucoma may find that the spike in eye pressure caused by rubbing the eyes can disrupt blood flow to the back of the eye and lead to nerve damage and, ultimately, permanent loss of vision.
  • Studies have shown that continuous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals can also lead to thinning of the cornea, which is weakened and pushes forward to become more conical. This is known as keratoconus, and is a serious condition that can lead to distorted vision and possibly the future need for a corneal graft. Read more about keratoconus.

How do I stop?

If something is stuck in your eye, attempt to flush it out with sterile saline or artificial tears. If this doesn’t work, head straight to your doctor or optometrist.

The best way to prevent yourself from touching your eye area is to use eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated and prevent itching.  Artificial tears are a non-medicated imitation of natural tears. They are available over the counter and are suitable for people experiencing dry eyes.  Other eye drops are available to prevent the itch that causes eye rubbing. These drops have anti-histamines and mast cell stabilisers. In more severe cases, steroid eye drops are also used to prevent chronic eye rubbing, especially in allergy sufferers.

Consult with your doctor or optometrist about which type of drops are right for you.

Remember, excessive eye rubbing – whether due to chronic dryness, itchiness or merely habit – should be addressed to avoid unpleasant consequences.

Enjoyed this article?

More articles on this subject
General eye health

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Have a question?

IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.

  • This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Privacy Policy

coloured spectrum bar