Does rubbing your eyes cause astigmatism?
Rubbing your eyes to relieve discomfort and itching is a very common gesture, but specialists advise against doing so because it can cause damage to your eyesight and long-term vision problems.
Rubbing the eyes is a very common gesture when we feel itchy, tired or have any visual discomfort. But ophthalmologists advise against doing it because it carries some risks and can spoil our visual health . What risks are these? Is it true that rubbing your eyes can cause astigmatism? What should we do when we feel eye discomfort? We detail it in the following lines.
Why is it bad to rub your eyes?
The eye is a delicate and sensitive organ that can be easily damaged, even by everyday actions that seem harmless, such as rubbing or scratching above the eyelid. Although rubbing the eyes provides immediate relief from itching, for example, we must know that this action can cause various problems. The following are the most important:
Conjunctivitis or other infections
Eye infections are one of the most common consequences of rubbing your eyes. The reason is in our hands, which normally harbor germs from contact with various surfaces.
As we learned during the covid-19 pandemic, washing your hands is a very effective measure to prevent infections, including those that affect the eyes, such as keratitis or conjunctivitis. For this reason, when we go to touch our eyes and nearby areas (for example, when we put on makeup or remove makeup), it is very important to wash our hands first.
Many times we are careful to touch our eyes delicately and gently. But this does not avoid the risks of damaging the surface of the eye and the cornea. Why? Because when we scratch or rub it is usually because a foreign body has entered us , such as dust, sand, an insect, some fluff from the trees or an eyelash. When we rub our eyes above the eyelid, these elements that are in direct contact with the eye can scratch its surface and damage it .
This is one of the most common consequences when we rub our eyes. When touching us, it is easy to break some of the capillaries that irrigate the eye tissue. “This causes reddening of the white part of the eye and, in addition, it can produce an eye spill that will appear as a red spot in the eye,” explains ophthalmologist Fernando Llovet, from the Baviera Clinic.
Deformation of the cornea
When we rub our eyes very frequently or intensely, we can cause more serious injuries, such as corneal deformation or keratoconus. Keratoconus occurs when the cornea thins and bulges out like a cone.
This progressive shape change causes light rays to blur and, consequently, makes us more sensitive to light sources and blurs our vision . According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), in the more advanced stages of keratoconus, astigmatism and myopia also increase. So yes: frequent eye rubbing can lead to astigmatism.
What to do to relieve eye discomfort
Itchy eyes are often due to allergies. Ocular allergic symptoms are caused by direct exposure of the ocular mucosa to environmental allergens (pollen, grasses, animal dander, room dust, etc.) that dissolve in the tear and penetrate the conjunctiva.
A first measure is to consult with our ophthalmologist to find out if we have an ocular allergy and, in that case, to prescribe an appropriate treatment. Topical antihistamines (in drops) can help us correct the root of the problem, instead of continuing to scratch to alleviate the symptoms.
Other times, the discomfort is caused by the cold, excessive use of screens or dry eyes ( dry eye syndrome is a very common problem, which increased during the pandemic due to the use of masks). For these cases, professionals recommend blinking frequently and using artificial tears, which are very useful. And, of course, consult with our pharmacist and our doctor to clear all doubts.