Rubbing the eyes is a reflex for most of us, a natural response to itches, irritation and allergies. By rubbing the eyes, we stimulate tear flow and wash away whatever is irritating them. This applied pressure also has the unexpected effect of relaxing the vagus nerve, which can reduce stress.
But routinely rubbing your eyes can have negative effects, ranging from scratched corneas to keratoconus. Below, the experienced West Palm Beach and Jupiter vision care professionals of Mittleman Eye discuss the potential consequences of this risky natural reflex.
Because the eye is so fragile, even a moderate amount of rubbing can result in damage. When rubbing causes small blood vessels to break, the eyes appear blood-shot. Leakage from capillaries can even help create dark circles under the eyes.
In the process of rubbing the eyes, your hand may transfer germs to the area, which can cause conjunctivitis or other infections. If there is dirt, debris or a grain of sand in the eye, it can scratch the cornea when you rub your eyes. The effect is even greater if you wear contact lenses.
Too much rubbing can affect your vision, changing your prescription by shortening or lengthening the distance between lens and retina. It can also cause an increase in intraocular eye pressure, which is especially dangerous for those already suffering from elevated eye pressure.
Constant eye rubbing can wear away the thickness of the cornea. When the cornea loses integrity, it may gradually become more conical in shape, resulting in keratoconus, a condition that can seriously impact the health of your eye and the clarity of your vision.
Breaking the Habit
Refraining from rubbing your eyes is easier said than done. Eye rubbing is a natural response that we need to make a conscious effort to unlearn. The best alternative to addressing dryness and irritation is to wash the eye with sterile saline, eye drops or water. Flushing away dust and debris is the safest way to restore comfort and protect your delicate eyes.
If you would like to learn more about optimal eye health, we invite you to schedule a personal consultation with an experienced ophthalmologist at our West Palm Beach or Jupiter office by contacting Mittleman Eye today.