Should I avoid rubbing my eyes?

We all rub our eyes, sometimes without even realizing it.  But there are reasons why we shouldn’t rub our eyes such as:

1. Increased Risk of Infection

You use your hands for just about everything and when you touch your hands to your eyes, you can transfer germs, increasing your risk for serious infections. Although frequent hand washing kills some of these germs, you inevitably pick up more throughout the day.

2. Injury and Long Term Effects

Your hands can also introduce dust and debris to your eyes. Rubbing your eyes is one of the worst ways to remove dust and debris as it can push the particles deeper into your eyes, scratching your cornea. Small scratches or abrasions may lead to irritation, redness, and light sensitivity. Larger, more serious injuries may result in infections and scars. In extreme cases, these abrasions may lead to long-term vision problems. Frequent rubbing of the eyes can cause trauma to the eye. Repeated trauma over time leads to a weakening of the collagen fibers, which the cornea relies on to maintain its gently curved shape. Rubbing could also lead to thinning of the cornea, which weakens and pushes forward to a cone-like shape, also known as keratoconus. Rather than rubbing your eyes, you should flush away the irritant with clean water or a sterile saline solution. If the debris remains, seek emergency help from an eye doctor.

3. Released Histamines

During allergy season, your immune system goes into overdrive. When your body encounters allergens, it naturally releases histamines. Histamines, in turn, allow white blood cells to better permeate capillaries and to more effectively attack foreign bodies in affected tissue. Unfortunately, histamines also trigger inflammation, so you experience red, irritated, swollen, and itchy eyes as a result. When you rub your eyes, you experience temporary relief as you stimulate your tear production. The tears lubricate and soothe your eyes, and your eyes won’t feel as dry or irritated. But the extra pressure and movement also stimulate the release of additional histamines. In a few seconds, your eyes may feel itchier and more irritated than ever before. If you need a little relief, invest in an over-the-counter eye drop or sterile saline solution that will flush out allergens and lubricate your eyes.

If you do rub your eyes, do it gently and with little pressure. if you notice more need to rub your eyes caused from irritation, itchiness or dryness, call our office to discuss more.