Can Eye Rubbing Cause A Problem ?

Can Eye Rubbing Cause A Problem ?

Rubbing our eyes from time to time seems a relatively harmless thing to do, we find we just naturally do it if we’re feeling tired, experiencing eye discomfort.

The action of gently rubbing the eyes can be beneficial as it stimulates tears helping to flush out irritants or lubricates dry, tired eyes giving them a refreshing boost.

Rubbing eyes can also feel quite therapeutic due the Vagus Nerve being stimulated as we press down on the eyeball, it has the effect of slowing down the heart rate, providing stress relief.

So although the eyes can deal with some gentle rubbing from time to time, vigorous or frequent, habitual rubbing can cause damage. 

From an anesthetic point of view tiny blood vessel can break and causes the eyes to become bloodshot, dark circles can form under the eye and the delicate skin around the eye can become dry, loose, and wrinkled.

Involuntary rubbing of the eyes can expose them to germs from unwashed hands.  Bacterial, fungal and viral infections can be easily introduced causing conjunctivitis where the eyelids and white part of the eye becomes swollen, red and irritated. This condition is more unsightly and unpleasant than serious. Dependent on the cause of the conjunctivitis it is usually treated successfully with specific eye drops prescribed by your eye care practitioner.

If a foreign body gets into the eye our first response is to rub in an effort to dispel it as quickly as possible.  However, in doing so we risk causing a corneal abrasion, where the foreign body can scratch the protective outer layer of the eye, this is painful and has the potential to lead to scarring and eye ulcers, so a prompt visit to you eye care professional is needed.

People with certain pre- existing eye conditions can cause themselves a myriad of problems by continuously rubbing the eyes, such as visual deterioration & distortion, spikes in eye pressure that can cause nerve damage and ultimately loss of sight.

So what are the gentler alternatives to alleviate the need for rubbing our eyes?

Tired, dry scratchy eyes need moisture, which can be added with the use of eye drops which come in small bottles and even single use vials that can easily be taken anywhere.  Personally, I like to insert eye drops at night before bed, so my eyes bathe in moisture all night while sleeping and I look fresh in the morning - always a good look and I don’t seem to need drops through the day. 

A warm compress over the eyes is so relaxing and hydrating for the whole eye area. It helps to open-up the Meibomian glands improving the glands natural flow of oils that stabilize the tear film, reducing moisture evaporation.  All you need is a face washer soaked in warm, not hot water, wrung out, folded and placed over the eyes.  If you are on the go, some Asian shops have single use warming eye pads which activate when opened, these are one of my travel essentials!

Choose an eye cream and use it sparingly and frequently, this will help to keep the delicate area around the eye moisturized so the skin doesn’t get dry, flaky and itchy making you feel like you need to rub.

If you suffer from allergies often the eyes become itchy which can drive you mad. Eye drops with Antihistamine are available off the shelf at any pharmacies, they will provide instant relief.  For more chronic cases, steroid eye drops can help and these you can get from your eye care professional.

A foreign body in the eye, wash your hands first and see if you can remove it by looking in the mirror, if it needs dislodging flood the eye with eye drops to help.  If something is caught under the top lid, you can use an eye bath with Saline, not water, to help flush it out, if no luck see your eye care professional.

There is nothing worst that eye discomfort but rubbing vigorously or frequently will often not help and can use more serious consequences, hopefully this blog provides ideas of how to manage eye discomfort without the need for rubbing.

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