How does rubbing your eyes cause eyesight problems?

4th July 2013

Stressed, tired or itchy; your eyes may not like a sharp poke but rubbing? Well that’s another matter.

Although a morning stretch and a quick rubbing your eyes may feel harmless enough, it has been found that conditions such as keratoconus are directly linked to this forceful circular motion pressured onto the corneal areas.

For the majority of people, rubbing has a positive effect; simply lubricating dry eyes, dislodging specs and irritants, even slowing down heart rate by putting pressure on the vagus nerve located here.

However, researchers found 60 seconds of intense rubbing caused much higher activity of protease and inflammatory agents at work within the eye, as well as increases to tearing. Although it is unusual to come across reason for such a long spell of eye rubbing in day to day activity, persistent habit may induce the type of cell death which leads to problems, for example keratoconic corneas.



As shown above, keratoconus is a particularly common condition usually starting out as astigmatism, where the central area of the cornea becomes weaker and thinner. This causes progressively distorted vision that continues to degenerate over time. Glasses cannot always accommodate for damage like this, calling for contact lenses or more long term options like laser eye surgery to correct eyesight.

So next time your head falls into your hands, remember… you only got one pair!


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