Woman rubbing her irritated eye

Did you know that people with allergies are more likely to end up needing a corneal transplant?

You won’t believe why.

Because of EYE RUBBING!

WHY do we do it?

Since many of us do it all the time, rubbing your eyes may seem like a pretty innocent thing to do. Babies do it naturally when they’re tired. We do it when we are feeling tired, or are dealing with allergies; even when we have a cold. Rubbing stimulates the flow of tears, which lubricates dry eyes and removes dust and other things that irritate our eyes.

Rubbing can also feel therapeutic because it can stimulate the vagus nerve, which slows down your heart rate and relieves stress.

However, we know most people are not aware that eye rubbing can cause some pretty severe damage in multiple ways…so we came up with an easy list.


We will start from the scariest, and most serious, and work our way down.

1. Long Term Eye Disease

The most worrisome of effects are the long-term ones. Studies have shown that continuous eye rubbing can lead to thinning of the corneal tissue, which weakens the cornea and pushes it forward to become more conical. This thinning is an eye disease called keratoconus, which is a serious condition that can lead to distorted vision and ultimately the need for a corneal transplant. Read more about keratoconus here.

Eye rubbing causes the most dangerous to people with certain pre-existing eye conditions. People with progressive myopia (near-sightedness which is VERY common) may find that rubbing worsens their eyesight.

People with glaucoma may find a spike in eye pressure caused by rubbing the eyes that can also disrupt blood flow to the back of the eye and lead to nerve damage, which ultimately can cause permanent loss of vision!

2. Injury

Sometimes people get something stuck in their eye and the natural instinct is to rub to try and remove the object. As natural as it is to try to get it out, it is actually the worse idea because rubbing the object against your eye can easily cause a corneal scratch, which is known as a corneal abrasion. Corneal Abrasions can be REALLY painful and take some time to heal, and that’s assuming they don’t get infected. Eye rubbing is the least effective and most dangerous way to get anything out. Your body’s natural defense mechanism, in this case, tears, will take care of the problem; but if they don’t, try using eye drops. If something’s still there, see an eye doctor. A corneal abrasion is going to feel much worse for much longer than even the most obtrusive particle of dust!

3. Risk of infection – Pink eye, eek!

It is pretty obvious that your hands carry more germs than any other part of your body because of all you touch throughout the day. When you rub your eye, these germs are easily transferred and can often cause infections like conjunctivitis (or pink eye). While you can use a ton of hand sanitizer and wash your hands hundreds of times a day, if you rub your eyes, you’re always going to be putting yourself at a higher risk of eye infection.

4. It makes you look less attractive – Dark Circles and Blood Shot Eyes, Oh My!

Who knew? Rubbing your eyes can even affect how you look! Eye rubbing causes tiny blood vessels to break which in turn causes blood-shot eyes and those dark, unsightly circles under your eyes that everyone is always trying to avoid or cover with makeup.

It doesn’t work. So duh, STOP!
It’s pretty ironic but rubbing your eyes to relieve itching releases even more histamines. This actually makes the itching even worse. Pretty simple equation… if rubbing your eyes doesn’t even work, is it really worth taking all these risks, getting infected, developing an eye disease, scratching your cornea, or looking uglier?

Not so much. We agree.

5. How do I stop eye rubbing?

If you have eye allergies, see a doctor for recommendations on either oral antihistamines (like Allegra) or antihistamine eye drops. Managing the underlying cause is key, and some people with itchy eyes have inflammatory conditions an eye doctor needs to treat.

Eye Drops: If you feel something in your eye, try to flush it out with sterile saline or artificial tears. If this does not work, call your eye doctor immediately.

The best way to prevent touching your eye area often is to regularly use eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated to help prevent itching.

Artificial tears do not require a prescription and are a highly sophisticated imitation of real, natural tears. They are available over the counter at any pharmacy and most grocery stores and are beneficial to anyone experiencing dry eyes.

There are also other eye drops available to prevent the itching that causes eye rubbing. Some drops are anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizers. In very severe cases, steroid eye drops are prescribed to prevent chronic eye rubbing, something is commonly seen in those who suffer from allergies.

No matter what the cause: chronic dryness, itchiness, allergies, or even just habit, eye rubbing should be addressed to avoid any of the above consequences.

If this article really hit home and you find yourself constantly eye rubbing, you could be suffering from a case of severely dry eyes or allergies; and either way, an eye exam can only do you good! Call our eye experts today at 713-626-5544 to help you have clear, beautiful, non-itchy eyes!