Even though it is a very natural reaction to rub your eyes when they’re feeling itchy, watery or otherwise irritated, it is important to keep your hands away from your eyes. Rubbing them can lead to eye injuries, infections or even damaged vision.
Our eyes become itchy or irritated for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this reaction is caused by allergies, other times a foreign object may be the source of irritation when it becomes trapped inside the eyelid. In any case, rubbing your eyes can be dangerous. Your eyes natural defense for removing irritants comes from producing tears to flush objects out of the eye. Rubbing your eyes when there is a foreign object trapped in the eyelid can result in scratches to the cornea. It also increases irritation by increasing additional histamine into the affected eye and can lead to the development of an infection. Eye drops can help to supplement natural tears in individuals who have dry eyes and may not produce enough tears for relief of irritation.
Dark circles under your eyes may also result over time if you frequently rub them as rubbing causes blood vessels in the eyelids to break and leak blood. As a result, blood pools under the skin and creates dark circles. Once dark circles appear, it may be difficult to effectively get rid of them. Wearing an eye mask when you sleep can help to eliminate dark circles that are caused by rubbing.
Regular eye rubbing over an extended period of time can lead to a condition known as keratoconus. Keratoconus causes a thinning of the cornea and results in the cornea losing its shape. This condition can lead to blurry vision and sometimes cannot be fully corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
Keratoconus is often accompanied by severe infections. Fingers and hands can carry many germs, even if you wash your hands regularly. Those germs can spread to your eyes through rubbing and result in pink eye (conjunctivitis) and other similar complications. Chronic eye rubbing can also result in long-term vision damage that cannot be fully corrected or reversed.
How to treat irritated eyes
Relief from itchy eyes can be achieved through the use of over the counter eye drops or by applying a cold compress to your eyes. When these home remedies are not enough, or if an infection develops, you should arrange to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can perform a thorough eye examination to identify the root cause of your eye irritation and prescribe treatment to help relieve your symptoms.