Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Rub Your Eyes

When your eyes feel itchy or uncomfortable, your first instinct may be to rub them for relief. However, this seemingly harmless act may have more consequences than you realize. Dr. Natalia Hapych, a family medicine provider, shares valuable insight into why rubbing your eyes can cause harm and offers safer alternatives to ease discomfort.

Eye Surface Damage

  1. Irritation and Infections: Rubbing your eyes can introduce dirt and bacteria from your hands into your eyes, which can lead to infections such as conjunctivitis. “Keep in mind that your hands are constantly in contact with various surfaces and, therefore, may carry harmful microbes,” explains Dr. Hapych.
  2. Corneal Abrasion: A more severe consequence of eye rubbing is the risk of scratching your cornea. This is especially possible if there’s something foreign in your eye. “A scratched cornea not only causes discomfort but also increases the risk of serious eye infections,” warns Dr. Hapych.
  3. Altered Eyelid Shape: Persistent eye rubbing can gradually alter the shape of your eyelids, leading to drooping eyelids or eyelid laxity. This change can affect the health of your eyes and may alter your appearance.

Vision Threats

  1. Progression of Myopia: If you’re myopic, rubbing your eyes can worsen your condition. The pressure exerted on the eye can potentially deform the eye shape and lead to an increase in myopia.
  2. Keratoconus Development: Rubbing your eyes can contribute to a condition named keratoconus, where the cornea becomes thin and cone-shaped. This change affects how light enters your eyes and can lead to distorted vision.
  3. Retinal Tear or Detachment: The pressure from rubbing can cause small tears in the retina, the layer at the back of your eye that senses light. In severe cases, the retina can even detach, which is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.

Aggravating Pre-Existing Eye Conditions

  1. Glaucoma: If you have glaucoma, rubbing your eyes can elevate the pressure in your eyes. This elevated pressure can lead to optic nerve damage and potentially loss of vision.
  2. Dry Eyes: “If you suffer from dry eyes, rubbing them can further disrupt the tear film, exacerbating the problem,” explains Dr. Hapych.

Unseen Risks

  1. Dark Circles and Bags Under Your Eyes: The skin around your eyes is very delicate. Rubbing your eyes can break the small blood vessels under the skin, leading to dark circles. The pressure can also lead to puffiness and bags under the eyes.
  2. Risk of Facial Infections: Eye rubbing can lead to the spread of infections, such as cold sores, to other parts of the face.

How Can I Alleviate Eye Discomfort Without Rubbing?

“When your eyes feel irritated or itchy, it’s better to use a safer approach than rubbing,” recommends Dr. Hapych. Here are some alternatives:

Rinsing Your Eyes

If you feel that something’s stuck in your eye, try rinsing it out with clean water or a saline solution. This action can help dislodge the foreign particle and reduce irritation.

Using Eye Drops

Lubricating eye drops can provide instant relief from dryness and irritation. They can help to refresh your eyes and stabilize the tear film.

Applying a Cold Compress

A cold compress can help soothe itchy and inflamed eyes. It can also reduce puffiness and provide relief from eye strain.

Blinking Your Eyes

“Regular and mindful blinking can help to distribute tears evenly across your eyes, which helps to keep them lubricated and removes any small particles that may be causing irritation,” says Dr. Hapych.

Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams can help detect any eye conditions early. If your eyes are constantly itchy or irritated, it’s time to schedule a visit to your eye care provider.

In conclusion, the next time your eyes feel itchy or uncomfortable, remember these potential risks and safer alternatives. Take care of your eyes – they’re the only pair you’ve got.

Further Reading: 5 Eye Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

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