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  • Writer's pictureJaney Yee

The Surprisingly Serious Problem with Rubbing Your Eyes

eye rubbing, keratoconus, allergies, dry eyes
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Whether it’s from a long day, a long night, or from hours of staring in front of your computer, tired eyes beg to be rubbed.

Your eyes typically dry out over the course of the day and rubbing helps spread the tears around the surface of the eye and lubricate it. Pushing on the lids releases oil from them, and makes the surface nice and slick. So there’s a good reason why many of us do it.

But it’s not the best thing to do. All that rubbing can exacerbate a serious disease of the cornea called keratoconus, where the cornea gets weak, loses its shape, and causes vision impairment. It’s considered to be a fairly rare disease, but eye rubbing is considered one of the major contributors of keratoconus.

I know it’s difficult, but there are ways to resist the urge to rub:

* Artificial tears are probably the simplest thing to do.

Choose whatever formula you like, from liquid to gel to ointment, but don’t get a product that says it gets the red out – read my previous blog to find out why. If your eyes are so dry that you need to use artificial tears more than twice a day, it’s worth seeing your optometrist about whether you have dry eye, which can be treated.

*Use warm compresses over your eyes.

Try a warm washcloth or mask to make eyes feel relaxed after a long day. It might help you cut down on end of day eye rubbing.

*Treat allergies if you have them.

Rubbing eyes that are itchy from seasonal allergies can start a vicious cycle. Allergies can cause bumps on the inside of your lids, and rubbing irritates them more. It’s like scratching a dry patch on your skin - it feels good for a few moments, but ends up making it more irritated in the end. Treating the allergies should help remove the rubbing problem.

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