Rubbing our eyes: It’s something we all mindlessly do once — or a few — times a day. Whether our eyes are tired, itchy, or irritated, optometrist Weston Tuten, OD, explains why extra care should to be taken for not only the delicate skin surrounding, but our eyeballs themselves.
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1. You can cause damage to your cornea
“It’s possible to scratch your cornea with a nail as you’re rubbing, leading to an abrasion,” Dr. Tuten says. “You can also misdirect your eye lashes and they will continually poke your cornea with each blink.” It’s even possible to also induce corneal astigmatism with excessive eye rubbing.
2. Too much irritation can cause additional conditions
“Developing a condition called keratoconus is possible if you rub your eyes too much,” he explains.
Certain underlying conditions, such as allergies and Down syndrome, can lead to excessive rubbing of the eyes during childhood, which can lead to a decrease in corneal strength.
3. You can place additional eye care expenses on yourself
“When the cornea weakens, it can develop a cone, instead of being a smooth dome. This cone will bend light in the wrong way, and glasses won’t correct the vision,” Dr. Tuten says. Patients with keratoconus have to use specialty contact lenses to achieve 20/20 vision, requiring more time and money on the patient’s part.
Prevention is the best medicine
To prevent rubbing your eyes, you can use topical eye drops. Certain drops are available over-the-counter for allergy suffers.
“The drops can be cooled down before using them to make them more comfortable,” Dr. Tuten suggests. “You could also use preservative-free artificial tears, also cooled, to provide more comfort.”