The Rub on Eye Rubbing

irritated-eyesAllergy season is here again and for me that means one thing: eye rubbing.  I hate doing it but sometimes you just can’t help it. Your eyes itch, but it’d kind of hard to actually scratch them, so, you rub!

Is eye rubbing really a bad thing? I did some research to find out.  And, guess what?  It may be.

According to Professor Charles McMonnies, from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia, an occasional gentle eye rub is alright.  It helps stimulate tears to soothe dry eyes, and can help sweep out dirt, dust or other irritants that are bothering you.

Rubbing Can Be Harmful

But, rubbing your eyes for too long or too hard could cause problems over the long haul because each time you rub your eye the pressure goes up.  According to Professor McMonnies, even light rubbing, like one would have to do help a dry contact lens or get an eyelash out, increases the pressure to double.  When you really dig at your eyes — rubbing on them hard — like I sometimes have to do if they are irritated (after I remove my contact lens of course) — can cause your eye pressure to be increased to 20 times normal!

For most this isn’t a big deal, but if you have progressive myopia, glaucoma or some other eye issues — increasing the pressure that much could be harmful.

Beware Contact Lens Wearers

Contact lens wearers need to be especially careful.  Rubbing could cause you to rip a lens or accidentally scratch your eye.  But, when you remove your contacts, it is important not to rub as your cornea may be swollen from not getting a lot of oxygen while your lenses were in (the thicker your lenses are the more this may be a problem.)

Check for Irritants

But, the real rub is — according to this Professor and others — we don’t have to knead our eyeballs.  If it’s allergies that are making you itch — rubbing just makes them worse by spreading the nasty pollen around.   If your eyes are bothering you, the best thing to do is make sure your hands are clean, remove your contact lenses and put a warm cloth over your eyes. Or, you can gently try to sweep allergens or irritants away.  If your eyes are dry — get some good eye drops and they’ll work much better than the rubbing!

Ask your optometrist at your closest America’s Best if they have any other great suggestions to keep you from rubbing your eyes!

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