Rubbing our eyes is one of those things we do early in the morning, throughout the day and late at night. We do it subconsciously as a sign of tiredness or sore eyes. For some people, they rub their eyes to relieve allergies. But is this seemingly harmless act causing your eye problems?
Why do we Rub our Eyes?
Dry, sore and tired eyes need relief. By rubbing your eyes, you are triggering tears which help lubricate the eyes. People suffering from stress may also rub their eyes for relief as pressing on the eyeball can stimulate the vagus nerve which can slow the heart rate.
Why we Shouldn’t Rub our Eyes
So if rubbing your eyes is a stress reliever and stimulates the tear duct to relieve sore, tired eyes, why shouldn’t we rub our eyes?
Excess Pressure on the Eyeball
Regular rubbing of your eyes even when done gently can increase eye pressure. For some people, the eye pressure returns to normal once the rubbing has finished but for those people who have eye conditions, they can be contributing to serious eye damage.
A tear or weakening of the cornea can occur from rubbing which will cause your eye to become misshapen and even cause keratoconus (where the cornea becomes cone-shaped). Both conditions can lead to significant vision loss. For people with progressive myopia (short-sightedness), excessive rubbing can worsen their condition.
Our fingers and hands are covered in germs. If you rub your eyes without thoroughly washing your hands first, you will be transferring some of the bacteria from your hands on to your eyes. If you are suffering allergies, rubbing your eyes can make them worse with tiny particles (allergens) on your eyelashes and around your eyes being moved into your eyes.
The skin around your eyes is the thinnest on your body and one of the first areas to show signs of ageing. Rubbing your eyes and not being gentle when removing makeup can cause the skin’s blood vessels to break and cause fine lines, puffiness, and drooping eyelids. Try to be gentle on your eyes by not rubbing them, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and the sun. You will keep the skin around your eyes looking younger for longer.
What to Do Instead
First, determine why you are rubbing your eyes. If it’s eye strain, take more regular breaks from the computer screen. If you think allergies are to blame, try taking medication to see if that eases the itching. If it’s your way of relieving stress, try meditation or exercise instead. For some people though, rubbing their eyes is just a bad habit. If you think this is you, try to be mindful of touching your eyes so you can reduce the number of times you rub your eyes. If you aren’t sure of the reason for your eye rubbing, see an optometrist or your GP.
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