At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, amidst all the reminders to not touch your face, you may have noticed that you unconsciously rub your eyes more than you previously realized. This instinct to touch your eyes has a basis in science: rubbing can activate tear flow to improve the lubrication and relieve a dry, itchy feeling.
Despite the momentary relief, this urge to rub your eyes is not healthy. In this blog, premier ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, known to many as “the surgeon’s surgeon,” explains why you should dispense with this habit.
Hazards of Rubbing Your Eyes
Although eyes are durable, they are not intended to regularly withstand the pressure of rubbing. Rough rubbing can cause red eye (by breaking blood vessels) or an injury like a corneal abrasion or retinal tear. This rule applies even if you have dirt or other debris in your eye — rubbing is just as likely to cause the foreign object to scratch your cornea as it is to dislodge it.
When it comes to allergies, rubbing your eyes is counterproductive. While it may feel nice in the moment, the rubbing motion releases more histamines, the same chemical your immune system releases in response to allergens that are responsible for your allergy symptoms in the first place.
Most seriously, rubbing your eye can gradually make your cornea weaker and thinner. This leaves your eyes vulnerable to serious conditions like keratoconus, which results in a bulging cornea and distorted vision and eye rubbing makes it worse leading for more and faster loss of vision. While this may sound alarmist, research demonstrates that habitual eye rubbers are more prone to keratoconus than the average person.
Alternatives to Eye Rubbing
If your eyes are itchy or irritated, seek other solutions for relieving the problem:
- Flush your eyes with sterile water or artificial tears.
- Take allergy medication to relieve allergy symptoms
- Use a cold compress (ice pack) against your eye
- Seek treatment for chronic dry eye
With some practice, you can relieve yourself of the habit of rubbing your eyes, which should protect your vision for the long term.
Meet Dr. Brian
Dr. Brian is an award-winning, internationally renowned ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills who has pioneered several vision enhancement and restoration procedures. As one of the leading experts in keratoconus, he has seen firsthand some of the damaging consequences of habitually rubbing your eyes.
If you do develop keratoconus, do not hesitate to reach out to the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute to receive prompt care that allows you to maintain your vision. To schedule a consultation, please call 1-310-860-1900 now.