Rubbing the eyes is a reflex for most of us, a natural response to itches, irritation and allergies. We rub our eyes because it works. By rubbing the eyes, we stimulate tear flow and wash away whatever is irritating them. This applied pressure also has the unexpected effect of relaxing the vagus nerve, which can reduce stress.
But routinely rubbing your eyes can have negative consequences. Below, experienced ophthalmologist Dr. Jay Schwartz of Phoenix-area Schwartz Laser Eye Center reviews some of the risks.
Wear and Tear
Because the eye is so fragile, even a moderate amount of rubbing can result in damage. When rubbing causes small blood vessels to break, the eyes appear blood-shot. 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.
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 eye health, we invite you to schedule a personal consultation with skilled ophthalmologist Dr. Jay Schwartz at his Phoenix, Glendale or Scottsdale office by calling or emailing Schwartz Laser Eye Center today.