Do you ever find yourself rubbing your eyes as you wake up in the morning? How about after a long day working at your computer?
When our eyes are tired or irritated, our first instinct may be to rub them for relief. Even though it seems harmless, that small sense of alleviation may come at a serious cost to your vision.
Why Do We Rub Our Eyes?
We often rub our eyes when they are irritated—either from dryness, fatigue, or from external irritants like dust or allergens. Tired and fatigued eyes often become dry as a result. Gently rubbing your eyes helps trigger the secretion of tears, helping lubricate eyes that are dry or itchy.
Rubbing your eyes doesn’t just help produce tears to provide relief. Surprisingly, it can help relieve stress too. Pressing down on the eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve, which slows down your heart rate and relieves stress by triggering your oculocardiac reflex.
Despite the benefits associated with an occasional gentle ocular massage, rubbing your eyes can potentially do more harm than good.
Bacteria Transfers From Your Hands To Your Eyes
We use our hands for just about everything throughout the day. From working on your computer to cleaning up around the house, they are introduced to a host of bacteria. Anytime we touch our eyes without washing our hands, we risk transferring that bacteria and exposing our eyes to infection.
And if you’re rubbing your eyes for allergy relief, you could be making it worse! Allergens can become trapped in your eyelashes and when rubbed, can be transferred to the eye’s surface.
Rubbing Your Eyes Can Cause Dark Circles
As we get older, the skin around our eyes is one of the first areas to show signs of aging. Rubbing your eyes can cause tiny blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface to break, resulting in dark circles, puffiness, and can even contribute to premature crow’s feet and drooping eyelids.
Although eye rubbing can be a contributor, those dark circles—also known as periorbital circles—can also be caused by illness, allergies, prolonged tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and even excess salt intake. Resisting the urge to rub your eyes and avoiding substances like tobacco and alcohol can keep the skin around your eyes looking fresh and vibrant.
Rubbing Can Cause Excess Pressure
Even light rubbing can double the pressure in your eyes. Activities such as removing makeup or wiping away tears can add even more pressure. Aggressive eye rubbing can increase eye pressure by as much as 20 times. For most, the pressure will return to normal after they finish rubbing, but some with certain eye conditions risk seriously harming their vision. Those with progressive myopia—a common type of short-sightedness—can find that excessive rubbing worsens their vision. In some cases, their retina may detach from the back of the eye due to the extreme pressure.
Rubbing can harm the front of the eye as well. The combination of the pressure exerted and the rubbing motion of the hand can potentially damage the cornea. This may either cause a tear, or weaken the cornea and cause it to be misshapen, resulting in a condition called keratoconus. Both causing significant loss of vision.
We Can Help You Achieve Clear, Healthy Vision
We understand how tempting it can be to rub your eyes when they’re a bit dry or tired. If your eye’s natural defenses aren’t quite enough, try using eye drops to relieve the discomfort. You’re health is important to us and we love helping our patients achieve clear, comfortable vision.
If you have any questions about how to calm your eye irritation, make an appointment or let us know in the comments below!