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Is It Bad to Rub Your Eyes?

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A young child sitting at a desk and rubbing her eyes while holding a pen in her right hand.

Are you constantly bothered by itchy eyes and rubbing them to relieve the discomfort? You’re not alone—many of us do this, especially when our eyes need relief. But the act of rubbing your eyes can be detrimental to your health. Rubbing your eyes may seem harmless, but it can actually lead to some severe consequences for your eye health.

How bad is it for us to rub our eyes, and what alternatives provide lasting relief without advertising further negative impacts on our ocular health? Let’s dive into this topic so you can be better informed about what’s good and not-so-good for keeping your eyes healthy.

The Dangers of Rubbing Your Eyes

Your eyes are delicate organs that are covered in a film of natural oils to help protect them from irritation and infection. If you rub your eyes too hard, you can easily damage this protective barrier, making it easier for harmful bacteria and viruses to enter. 

Repeatedly rubbing your eyes may also lead to dark circles and wrinkles around them. This is because the act of rubbing and tugging can cause the skin to stretch and become thinner over time. 

Introducing Bacteria & Viruses Through Eye Rubbing

When you rub your eyes, you risk introducing harmful bacteria and viruses that can lead to infections. These pesky microorganisms thrive in warm and moist environments, which is exactly what your eyes provide. So, the next time you feel an itch, resist the urge to rub and use eye drops or a damp cloth to alleviate the discomfort instead. 

How Bacteria & Viruses Can Spread

As we go about our daily routines, we often don’t think twice about touching our faces or holding objects that may be contaminated with harmful bacteria or viruses. However, these microorganisms have the ability to spread to other areas of our face and body, potentially causing infection or illness. 

For example, rubbing your eyes after touching a contaminated surface can transfer the bacteria or virus to that area. It can even lead to the spread of infections to other people. It’s essential to be mindful of where our hands have been and to practice good hygiene habits, such as washing our hands regularly, to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens.

Possible Allergic Reactions & Infections

It’s common for eye allergies to cause irritation and itching, which can lead people to rub their eyes. Unfortunately, rubbing your eyes can make the irritation worse and won’t relieve the allergy symptoms. Rubbing your eyes can even lead to an infection caused by bacteria or viruses. If you must touch your eyes, be sure to wash and dry your hands thoroughly first. 

If you’re experiencing eye allergy symptoms, visit your eye doctor. They may recommend over-the-counter drops or other treatments to battle allergic reactions. 

A man sitting on the couching rubbing his eye with the bad of his hand.

Long-Term Risks of Rubbing Your Eyes

Apart from the risk of infection, excessive eye rubbing can put pressure on your eyes. Regular pressure on your eyes can potentially lead to long-term damage and conditions like keratoconus, corneal abrasions, and other potential vision problems.


Eye rubbing has been linked to the development of keratoconus—a condition where the cornea becomes thinner and cone-shaped. This can affect your vision and require corrective lenses or even surgery in some cases. 

Corneal Abrasions

Since your eyes are incredibly delicate, they are susceptible to damage, especially concerning corneal abrasions. One of the most significant risks for this type of injury is over-rubbing your eyes. 

Whether you’re tired, experiencing allergies, or just trying to remove makeup, it’s easy to fall into the habit of rubbing your eyes. Unfortunately, this can cause tiny scratches on your cornea, leading to vision problems, pain, and even infection. 

It’s important to break the habit of over-rubbing and use gentle techniques to care for your eyes. This can help protect your eyes and reduce the risk of issues like corneal abrasions.

Other Potential Vision Problems

If you feel the need to rub your eyes often, it could be a sign of an underlying issue that may be treatable, such as dry eyes. Leaving potential vision problems untreated can lead to more significant issues in the long run, including eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma. 

These problems can progress and worsen without proper treatment, impacting your quality of life. So, staying on top of your eye health is essential by getting regular checkups and treatment if necessary. 

Clear Up Your Eye Health

While it’s natural to rub your eyes when they’re itchy or tired, it’s important to understand when it’s okay to do so and when it’s not. Rubbing your eyes too often can cause damage to your eyes and may be exacerbating an underlying health issue.If you have concerns about your eyesight—from dryness to general vision health—contact Restore Vision Center today.

Written by Tracy Eickhoff

Dr. Tracy Eickhoff grew up in Friendswood, Texas and graduated from Friendswood High School. She went on to attend Texas A&M University and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biomedical Science in 2004. From there she attended the University of Houston College Of Optometry where she received her Doctor of Optometry Degree in 2008. She is a member of The American Optometric Association, The Texas Optometric Association, and The Gold Key International Optometric Honor Society, The Ocular Nutrition Society, and has served as Adjunct Clinical Faculty at The University of Houston College of Optometry.

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