Don’t Rub It In!

After waking up from a good night’s sleep, often the first thing we do is give our eyes a rub. The gentle pressure helps us wake up, while removing the ‘sleep’ or build up of mucus and debris that builds up in our eyes overnight. This also stimulates your lacrimal glands, which produce tears to soothe your tired eyes.

The gentle rub can feel therapeutic, however if you rub your eyes too hard, or too often, you could be causing your eyes damage.

Below we have presented a list of dangers when it comes to eye-rubbing:

Dark Circles around your eyes

The skin around your eyes are more thin and delicate compared to the rest of your face. Rubbing your eyes can potentially damage the tiny blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface, and when the blood vessels break the blood flows into the surrounding tissue, which temporarily gives your skin that dark colour. It can also result in bloodshot eyes!


Our hands carry more germs than any other part of your body. When you rub your eye, these germs, such as staphylococcus, streptococcus, salmonella, and E. coli, can easily be transferred and result in infections like conjunctivitis. If you absolutely must touch your eyes, always remember to thoroughly wash with soap and water for at least 30 seconds and wipe your hands on a clean, dry towel.

Scratched Cornea

Your hands can introduce dust, debris, and other particles to your eyes whenever you rub or them. If those objects are large enough, your eye may itch and sting, and in response, you may rub your eyes even more. Contrary to our instincts, rubbing our eyes is one of the worst ways to remove grit and debris.
Rather than relieving the pain, rubbing may push the particles deeper into your eyes, scratching your cornea. These scratches and abrasions can lead to redness, irritation, and light sensitivity. Some of the more serious injuries can result in fungal infections and scars. If you feel or can see any particles in your eyes, use clean water or a sterile saline solution to wash away the particles. If you cannot wash it out seek immediate medical help.

Thinning of the Cornea

Studies have shown that continuous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals can also lead to thinning of the cornea. To maintain its gently curved shape, the cornea relies on tiny collagen fibres, however when these fibres weaken or break, the cornea begins to form a cone shape, which can result in a condition known as Keratoconus. Although a relatively simple procedure can stop its progression, if you are susceptible to Keratoconus, it’s best to avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible.

Increased Pressure

Lightly rubbing your eyes, such as removing make-up, wiping tears, can double the pressure in your eyes. Aggressive eye rubbing can increase eye pressure by as much as 20 times. Those with advanced myopia may find that excessive rubbing worsens their eyesight. Similarly, those with glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) may find that it causes a spike in the eye pressure causing loss of vision.

What Should We Do?

In any case of irritation or itchiness, wash your eyes multiple times with clean water or a sterile saline solution. You may also find that using eye drops can bring comfort and lubrication your eye, and flush out allergens or particles.

If you find that you are constantly rubbing your eyes, or your eyes are constantly itchy and irritated, you should schedule an eye exam with your local medical professional.

If you would like to contact us about arranging an appointment, please visit or call us on 028 9032 2020

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