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Is It Bad To Rub Your Eyes?

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A man outdoors rubbing his eyes to find relief.

Rubbing your eyes is a common reflex that many people do without a second thought. You might rub your eyes to find temporary relief from eye strain, to clear blurry vision, or simply to scratch an itch, but this habit can cause some harm over time.

Rubbing your eyes with unwashed hands increases the risk of corneal scratches, bruising, and infections like pink eye. If possible, avoid rubbing your eyes excessively, and make sure your hands are clean. If you notice constant irritation and discomfort, blurry vision, or redness, see your optometrist. 

Why Do People Rub Their Eyes?

Eye rubbing is often an unconscious response. It’s a natural reflex that can help alleviate discomfort and give you some quick, temporary relief.

There are plenty of reasons why you might be rubbing your eyes:

  • Allergies: Allergic reactions can cause itchiness.
  • Fatigue: The lack of rest can result in eye strain.
  • Dryness: Dry eyes can lead to inflammation.
  • Foreign particles: Dust, dirt, or eyelashes can cause irritation.
  • Stress: Rubbing the eyes can be seen as a therapeutic response to stress.
  • Bright lights: Excessive exposure to light lead to strain and other symptoms.

Rubbing your eyes feels like a natural motion, so many people don’t realize they’re doing it unless the action is pointed out. This makes it hard to break the habit, but understanding the risks can help you refrain from touching your eyes.

The Risks of Rubbing Your Eyes

Sure, scratching your eyes may bring temporary relief, but it also increases the risk of:

  • Infections: When rubbing your eyes, especially with unwashed hands, you’re introducing new bacteria and germs to the area.
  • Broken blood vessels: The eye is full of tiny blood vessels, and rubbing them can cause these vessels to burst and give you a bruised or bloodshot appearance.
  • Corneal abrasions: The cornea is the clear, outer layer of the eye, which can become scratched if you rub your eyes too vigorously, especially if there are foreign particles present.
  • Temporarily increasing intraocular pressure: This can be particularly harmful for people living with glaucoma, as the increased pressure can damage the optic nerve.

While there are plenty of reasons why people rub their eyes, it’s important to know the risks of doing so. 

Tips to Prevent Eye Rubbing

The first step in preventing eye rubbing is being aware of when you do it. Try to be vigilant, and if you catch yourself going through the motions, stop yourself.

Knowing the underlying cause behind the action can help prevent you from touching your eyes. For example, if you’re suffering from dry eyes, treating the condition will provide long-lasting relief. To soothe the eyes, you can try using warm compresses, eye drops, or dry eye therapy. Addressing the reason that causes you to rub your eyes can help prevent you from needing to rub your eyes in the first place.

A female optometrist talking to a male patient in an optometry clinic about how to prevent eye rubbing.

Following healthy habits are crucial to maintain your eye health. Try to:

  • Manage your stress levels
  • Practice a proper sleep schedule
  • Ensure you stay hydrated
  • Take regular breaks from screens and other activities that may strain your eyes
  • Pay attention to other triggers and avoid them where possible
  • Wear protective eyewear, such as sunglasses and safety glasses, when necessary

Finally, make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially if you have a habit of rubbing your eyes. Doing so can help minimize the risk of introducing unwanted bacteria into your eyes.

When to See an Optometrist

If discomfort persists, or if you notice redness, reach out to our team here at West Coast Optical. We can help you identify the cause of your symptoms and provide you with a personalized treatment plan. Book an appointment today to take the first step towards protecting your vision!

Written by West Coast Optical

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