While it may seem normal, rubbing your eyes after waking up or when you are tired always feels good. The good feeling of rubbing your eyes comes from stimulated tear flow that lubricates the eye, relieves dry eyes, and clears dust. Rubbing the eye is also therapeutic as the pressure applied to the eyeball stimulates the Vagus nerve. This reduces your heart rate and relieves stress.
Unfortunately, rubbing your eyes excessively can affect your eyes and vision. Rubbing your eyes continuously indicates a possible eye problem that should be addressed. While it may provide temporary relief, rubbing your eye can cause further damage.
What Causes Constant Eye Rubbing?
Most people rub their eyes constantly because of the following;
- Insomnia or inadequate sleep
- Dry eye
- Unknown allergies
- Vision issues
- Irritated contact lens
- Blepharitis or infected eyelids
- Common cold/flu
- Wrong vision prescription
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Rub Your Eyes
- Thins the cornea
The cornea, which is the outermost lens, regulates the amount of light entering the eye. It also focuses light to form a clear image on the retina. The cornea is made up of dense networks of collagen fibers, which maintain its spherical shape. A healthy cornea is critical for perfect vision. However, rubbing your eyes scurs the corneal surface, disintegrating the collagen fiber network.
Over time, the cornea becomes thin and starts changing shape. In most cases, it bulges out to form a cone shape, a condition called keratoconus. While this condition is commonly associated with genetics, eye diseases, and oxidative stress, some patients develop keratoconus due to constant eye rubbing.
- It scratches the cornea
If the eye has some dust, tiny particulate matter, and other irritants, rubbing your eyes can grind these particles against the cornea. What’s scary is that you won’t feel these particles’ rough and abrasive nature. The micro-abrasions resulting from the back-and-forth movements of microparticles on the eye’s surface aren’t painful or irritating.
Ironically, instead of aiding the removal of these particles, your fingers transfer more particulate matter into the eyes, worsening the problem. Continuous rubbing of the eyes causes cornea scratches that worsen over time. Initially, the scratched cornea can cause eye redness, watering, and increased sensitivity to light.
However, if the scratches worsen, the cornea becomes infected and develops scar tissue. As you can expect, the formation of scar tissues in the cornea causes vision problems.
- Increased risk of infection
An excessively thin or scratched corneal membrane increases the vulnerability of the eyes to infection. Even though the human eye has several protective measures, such as upper and lower eyelashes, eyebrows, and the moist flushing system, it isn’t completely immune to infections.
Eye rubbing can scratch or inflame your eye. You can also transfer dangerous bacteria from your fingers, increasing the risk of eye infections. This explains why eye surgeons discourage LASIK surgery patients from rubbing their eyes after the surgery. Common bacterial infections resulting from hand-eye contact are caused by E. Coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and Streptococcus bacteria. Fungal infections can also occur.
- Increases production of histamine
Histamines are naturally released in the body as a response to allergic inflammations. Unfortunately, histamine can be produced in excess following an allergy, further worsening the symptoms. If you catch a common cold or have itchy eyes caused by allergies, you may unconsciously rub your eyes excessively, accelerating histamine response.
Even though you can feel relieved after rubbing your eyes, the discomfort may worsen seconds or minutes after rubbing your eyes due to excessive production of histamines.
- It worsens glaucoma
Glaucoma is the number one cause of vision loss among adults aged 35 and above. While this condition primarily affects the optic nerve, which is located at the back of your eye, glaucoma treatment involves relieving excessive interocular pressure. That said, rubbing your eyes exerts pressure on the vitreous chamber, which contains the vitreous fluid, causing an increase in pressure within the eye. This contrasts the goal of glaucoma treatment and possibly worsens glaucoma.
- Worsens dark circles
Dark circles that form around the eye occur for various reasons, including allergies, anemia, fatigue, certain medications, and age. However, scratching and rubbing your eyes continuously can also promote the formation of these circles or darken the already present circles. Unlike other parts of the face, the skin surrounding the eyes is thin and delicate.
Therefore, anytime you rub or scratch your eyes damages the capillaries beneath the skin surface. As a result, blood flows out of these blood vessels into the surrounding tissues, giving your skin a dark color. If you notice dark circles every time you wake up, you probably rub your eyes while asleep. Using an eye mask can protect the skin.
Fatigue, irritation, dry eyes, and other eye conditions can make it impossible to resist the urge to rub your eyes. While it provides temporary relief, habitual eye rubbing is dangerous to your eyes. Treating the underlying cause is the only way to stop rubbing your eyes.