Why you shouldn’t rub your eyes!

Why do we feel the need to rub our eyes?

Rubbing your eyes is a natural reaction, of course, we do it when our eye needs more blood flow or tears to the area for example when we're tired (rubbing brings more blood flow and therefore more oxygen and nutrients to the tired eye) or if there is something in our eye to help tackle a potential allergen or pathogen and flush it out. So of course, there are times when we need to rub our eyes! 

Why is rubbing your eyes bad for you?

But rubbing can be hugely damaging - in the short term it could cause micro-scratches on your cornea (the front window of your eye) - in the long term, chronic rubbing (for example you often see this with children) has been linked to actually changing the shape of your cornea and causing an eye disease called keratoconus whereby the cornea changes from being a round shape to being a cone shape. This can be quite serious, affecting vision and often requiring special contact lenses or even surgery to stabalise. 

It can also cause infection!

If you happen to rub your eyes when your hands are dirty you could certainly cause infection. A common scenario I tend to see, is a patient who has been gardening or doing DIY work when something goes into their eye. The natural instinct is to rub it or to try get it out but with unclean hands, this can lead to other problems like infections. 

If you absolutely have to rub your eyes – follow these tips to do so safely!

  1. Make sure your hands are clean (wash them with soap and water) and dry. 
  2. The best thing to do is: - take your top eyelid by gently holding your upper eyelashes and pull that top lid over the bottom lid, then very gently rub. This is the most effective way to get a foreign body out of the eye.
  3. If you do need to rub your eyes, do it with minimal pressure and try rub on the sides of your eyes rather than the front of your eyes where your cornea is. 
  4. It's always a good idea to keep saline solution in the house - or a good lubricating dry eye spray (like our Instant Relief Eye Spray) in your first aid kit - both of these can be used to flush out anything in a safe way. But make sure they're in date when you use them!

How can I relieve itchy eyes?

The easiest thing is to use a calming spray like our Instant Relief Eye Spray - which our customers swear by for itchy eyes (caused by dryness or allergens) - since it protects the eye and also calms it. Other than that, a cool compress can help relieve the itchiness.