Rubbing the eyes is a reflex, a natural response to itches, irritation and allergies. By rubbing the eyes, we stimulate tear flow and wash away whatever is irritating them. This applied pressure can also have the effect of relaxing the vagus nerve, which reduces stress.
But routinely rubbing your eyes can have negative consequences, ranging from scratched corneas to keratoconus. Below, the experienced ophthalmologists of Mack Eye Center review some of the risks.
Because the eye is so fragile, even a moderate amount of rubbing can cause damage. When rubbing causes small blood vessels to break, the eyes appear bloodshot. Leakage from capillaries can even help create dark circles under the eyes.
In the process of rubbing the eyes, your hand may transfer germs to the area, which can cause conjunctivitis or other infections. If there is dirt, debris or a grain of sand in the eye, it can scratch the cornea when you rub your eyes. The effect is even greater if you wear contact lenses.
Too much rubbing can affect your vision, changing your prescription by shortening or lengthening the distance between lens and retina. It can also cause an increase in intraocular eye pressure, which is especially dangerous for those already suffering from elevated eye pressure.
Constant eye rubbing can wear away the thickness of the cornea. When the cornea loses integrity, it may gradually become more conical in shape, resulting in keratoconus, a condition that can seriously impact the health of your eye and the clarity of your vision.
Unlearning the Habit
Refraining from rubbing your eyes is easier said than done. Eye rubbing is a natural response that we need to make a conscious effort to unlearn. The best way to address dryness and irritation is to wash the eye with sterile saline, eye drops or water. Flushing away dust and debris is the safest way to restore comfort and protect your delicate eyes.
If you would like to learn more about ways to protect your eyes and preserve your vision, schedule an appointment today at Mack Eye Center, conveniently located in Hoffman Estates.