7 potential consequences of rubbing your eyes

Do you feel the overwhelming urge to rub your eyes? The temporary relief it gives you could have serious consequences. This act, repeated frequently, could have serious consequences.

Momentary relief, lasting damage?

Do you feel the irresistible urge to rub your eyes because of severe allergies, or after staring at the computer all day? Your temporary relief comes from stimulation of the vagus nerve, which acts on the heart rate and reduces stress.

However, this repeated dynamic can have serious consequences: eye disease, aggravation of existing medical problems or increased risk of infection. Here are 7 potential dangers of eye rubbing.

An eye disease

“Repeated eye rubbing can thin and even deform the cornea; this eye disease is called keratoconus,” says Dr. Mark Mifflin, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah. Continued friction of the corneal tissue can cause it to degenerate and deform, making it more conical. Extreme cases will lead to corneal transplantation.

Corneal abrasion

Corneal abrasion caused by an eyelash or dust is irritating and makes you want to rub your eyes. However, this can make the situation worse. Corneal abrasions usually heal within 24 to 48 hours of injury. It can also lead to an ulcer when improperly treated, the Mayo Clinic says. Rinse with water or saline instead.

Worsening glaucoma

People who suffer from this eye disease should avoid rubbing their eyes, according to Professor Charles McMonnies of the University of New South Wales School of Optometry.

Glaucoma results from a buildup of ocular fluid in the front of the eye that compresses the optic nerve and can eventually cause vision loss. Rubbing the eyes disrupts the blood flow to this organ, which can lead to permanent blindness. Learn more about this disease and how to prevent it.

Increasing myopia

If you have progressive nearsightedness, avoid rubbing your eyes as it can degrade your vision.

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, more than 10 million Canadians, or nearly 30 per cent of the population, suffer from nearsightedness, most of which worsens over time.

An infection from hand contact

Your hands are permanent carriers of germs, no matter how many times you wash them each day. Touching your eyes can contaminate them and cause conjunctivitis, according to the Ordre des optométristes du Québec. In case of inflammation, soothe the irritation with a warm compress.

Sagging eyelids

Eye rubbing can have consequences beyond the eyeball. “Eyelids can lose elasticity over time,” says Dr. Mark Mifflin. “It may not be as serious, but it’s certainly a problem you’d like to avoid.”

This is known as palpebral sagging, or drooping of the eyelids. The acceptable level of pressure for rubbing your eyes is similar to the pressure you use when drying your face with a towel.

If your eyelids move involuntarily, you may be suffering from a hormonal disorder. Discover 6 dangerous diseases revealed by your eyes.

Red and dark circles in the eyes

Although it only affects appearance, vigorous eye rubbing can cause small blood vessels to rupture. This could leave you with bloodshot eyes, according to WebMD. The blood will spill into the surrounding tissue and cause dark circles under your eyes.

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