Why Rubbing Your Eyes is Harmful

Published by Lance Kugler, MD on January 30, 2018

Are your eyes dry, red, and irritated? Are you just itching to give them a scratch? Well, we understand that it is only natural to scratch something when there is an itch. Patients ask us, “when can I rub my eyes after LASIK?” When it comes to rubbing your eyes whether or not you have had LASIK or not, we recommend that you to think twice about what you are doing!

You may think that rubbing your eyes will give you a sense of relief, but in reality, rubbing your eyes can have harmful side effects. Kugler Vision in Omaha, NE recommends that rubbing should be avoided.

5 Risks of Rubbing Your Eyes

Attempting to relieve an itchy eye by rubbing it actually releases more histamines, which makes the itching sensation even worse. Rubbing your eyes is not worth the risks. Below are five common risks of rubbing your eyes.

  1. Eye Infection – Rubbing your eyes with unclean hands can be especially dangerous, leading to infections such as pink eye or styes. No matter how carefully you wash your hands, if you rub your eyes often, you have a higher risk of getting eye infections.
  2. Eye Injury – Eyes may be itchy due to a variety of factors, but one of the most common reasons people rub their eyes is having something actually in the eye. If you have a foreign particle in your eye, rubbing your eyes is the least effective and most dangerous way to get it out. If you rub your eyes, the foreign particle could scratch your cornea, injuring your eye. Natural tears or eye drops are the best way for you to push out the foreign particle from your eye. If you have flushed your eye and still cannot remove the particle, see an eye doctor right away for help with extracting it.
  3. Dark Circles – Can be caused by rubbing your eyes at night. Rubbing your eyes can cause small blood vessels to break in your eyelids resulting in dark circles. Rubbing your eyes first thing in the morning can be risky for your cornea, which can be swollen from excess fluid as a result of low overnight oxygen levels. Try to avoid rubbing your eyes during the day as well as during the night.
  4. Keratoconus – Constantly rubbing your eyes over a long period of time can lead to a thinning of the cornea. This can also lead to recurring eye infections and even a condition known as keratoconus, which often leads to a significant vision distortion and a reduction in vision sharpness (visual acuity).
  5. Increased Eye Pressure – Eye pressure can increase as a result of rubbing your eyes. For the majority of people, eye pressure returns to normal when they stop rubbing their eyes. For some people with certain eye conditions, an increase in eye pressure can be more serious. For example, an increase in eye pressure for people with glaucoma can disrupt blood flow at the back of the eye leading to nerve damage, which can harm their sight, sometimes irreparably.

Do You Suffer From Eye Allergies?

woman suffering from dry eyes

Many of us rub our dry, sore, red, and irritated eyes during allergy season. Rubbing your eyes can just aggravate them more, especially if you suffer from allergies because you can transfer allergens like pollen from your eyelashes to the surface of your eyes.

How to Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

person putting eye drops in to relieve dry eyes
  • Gently apply a clean, wet face-cloth to your eyes to help reduce an itch or urge to rub, or to remove matter from your eyes in the morning.
  • Treat the cause of your dry eyes to minimize the need to rub, such as using eye drops or treating dry eye with Lipiflow.

Additional Questions?

If you would like more information on dry eye relief or why rubbing your eyes can be harmful, please contact us at 402.558.2211.

Lance Kugler, MD, is a specialist in LASIK and vision correction surgery and CEO of Kugler Vision. A proud Omaha native, he is passionate about improving lives through clear vision. Dr. Kugler serves on several national boards, and his practice is recognized internationally as a center of excellence. Dr. Kugler is one of the original founders of the Refractive Surgery Alliance, an international organization comprised of over 350 of the world’s leading vision correction surgeons; he also served as its first president. In 2019, Dr. Kugler was selected as a TEDx speaker, and delivered a talk in Omaha about the worldwide epidemic of nearsightedness and refractive solutions. Dr. Kugler is an Associate Professor of Refractive Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Truhlsen Eye Institute, has been published in many medical journals, and participates in numerous clinical studies to advance the field of vision correction surgery. Dr. Kugler and his wife are proud parents to five active kids. When he has a spare moment, he enjoys skiing, tennis, travel, and fine coffee.

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