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Occasionally, rubbing your eyes briefly might help you feel better. A short “ocular massage” can help stimulate the secretion of tears, lubricating itchy, dry eyes, and removing irritants from your eyeballs. Pressing down on the eyeball can also stimulate the vagus nerve, which will slow down your heart rate and relieve stress by triggering your oculocardiac reflex.

But for the most part, rubbing your eyes causes more harm than good. The temporary feeling of relief is vastly overshadowed by its negative side effects. Here are just a few of the ways rubbing your eyes can damage your vision:

RUBBING YOUR EYES CAN CAUSE DARK CIRCLES

The blood vessels around your eyes are very small and fragile and can easily be broken by rough contact. Habitually rubbing your eyes can promote the development of periorbital circles, which appear as dark rings around — and more commonly under — the eyes. The darkened color is a result of small amounts of blood leaking out of the periorbital vessels. Periorbital circles can also be caused by illness, allergies, long-term tobacco use, alcohol, and increased salt consumption. Dark circles around the eyes are usually harmless, but in rare cases, they can be an indication of hypothyroidism or liver disease.

RUBBING YOUR EYES CAN PERMANENTLY DAMAGE YOUR CORNEA

Rubbing your eyes in response to a foreign particle (dust or debris) coming in contact with your cornea is usually a bad idea. Rubbing is one of the least effective and most dangerous solutions to removing a small object from your eye, since moving particles along the surface of your eye can seriously damage or scratch your cornea. In most cases, eye drops or tears will help to remove objects from your eyes much better than rubbing will.

Many studies have shown that chronic eye rubbing can also lead to severe corneal thinning and complications such as keratoconus, a condition in which the shape of the cornea becomes irregular (and often conical in shape).

DIRTY HANDS CAN CAUSE EYE INFECTIONS

You use your hands for pretty much everything, so it’s no surprise that they pick up all sorts of bacteria throughout the day. Even in a relatively clean office environment, touching your eyes after operating a computer carries the risk of inoculating your eyes with a host of bacteria. These bacteria can cause pink eye, or increase your risk of catching a cold or influenza.

To add insult to injury — or maybe just to add more injury — rubbing your eyes to relieve allergy-induced itching will release more acids and histamines into the sensitive tissues of the eye, which only causes itching or burning to become more severe. Therefore, rubbing your eyes is not only dangerous, but ineffective as well.

Do you suspect your vision has been damaged after rubbing your eyes? Contact Silverstein Eye Care Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

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