4 min


Rubbing Itchy Eyes

Itchy eyes can be very annoying and distracting and affect many people. The urge to rub your eyes can be intense, but it’s essential to resist the temptation as much as possible.

This article explores the causes of itchy eyes, why you shouldn’t rub itchy eyes, why it feels so good when you do rub them, how to avoid rubbing your eyes when they’re itchy and irritated, and how to prevent itchy eyes in the first place.

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What Causes Itchy Eyes?

  • Hay Fever: Allergic reactions, such as hay fever, can cause itching and eye swelling.
  • Eye infections: like conjunctivitis (pink eye), can cause redness, itching, and discharge.
  • Blepharitis: is an underlying condition that results in the inflammation, scaling and irritation of (usually both) your eyelids.
  • Dry Eyes: Dry eyes can cause itching, burning, and a gritty feeling in the eyes and eye fatigue can cause itching and a burning sensation due to the strain on the eyes.
  • Contact Lenses: disrupt and irritate the tear film, causing dry eye issues (as described above).
  • Environmental irritants: such as smoke and dust.
  • Medication: Including antihistamines, blood pressure medications (e.g. ACE inhibitors), cholesterol-lowering drugs (e.g. statins), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) & hormonal medicines (e.g. oral contraceptives, HRT for Menopause & Perimenopause).

But Why Does It Feel So Good?

Rubbing itchy eyes can feel very good because it releases histamine, a chemical that causes itching, and stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

The physical pressure of rubbing the eyes can also help to relieve itching and discomfort. However, while rubbing itchy eyes may provide temporary relief, it is not a long-term solution. It can actually make the itching worse in the long run.

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“Rubbing your eyes can also cause damage to the delicate skin and tissues around the eyes. It can even lead to wrinkles and dark circles over time.”

Why You Shouldn’t Rub Itchy Eyes

  • Rubbing your eyes can also cause damage to the delicate skin and tissues around the eyes. It can even lead to wrinkles and dark circles over time.

  • Rubbing your eyes can be tempting when itchy, but it is not recommended. Rubbing your eyes can make the itching worse, spreading allergens and irritants from your fingers to your eyes.

  • Rubbing your eyes can also increase the risk of eye infections, as it can spread bacteria and viruses from your hands to your eyes.

  • Eye rubbing can cause thinning and weakening of the cornea, leading to bulging and distorted vision in susceptible individuals (known as keratoconus). Long-term damage may require a corneal transplant or specialised contact lenses.

  • Rubbing your eyes with a foreign object can cause damage to your cornea. This can lead to a variety of problems, such as:
    (1) Scratches or abrasions on the cornea, known as a corneal abrasion.
    (2) Inflammation and swelling of the cornea.
    (3) Infections, such as bacterial or viral conjunctivitis.
    (4) Weakened corneal structure, which can make it more susceptible to injury and disease in the future.

  • Excessive eye rubbing can also lead to bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and wrinkles around the eyes.

  • Rubbing is particularly harmful to those with progressive myopia or glaucoma, as it can worsen eyesight and cause permanent vision loss, retinal tear or detachment, and heightened eye pressure.

  • How To Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

    • Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible. Ensure your hands are clean and dry if you need to touch your face.
    • Use a cool compress, such as a cold gel pack or a damp cloth, to soothe itching and discomfort.
    • Use eye drops and eye sprays or a combination of drops and sprays to relieve itching and redness. If your itching is due to allergies, you may want to try taking an antihistamine or using a nasal spray to relieve symptoms.
    • Rubbing the muscles around the eyes in circular motions.
    • Massaging other areas such as the earlobes, squeezing a stress ball or rubbing a smooth rock.

    How To Avoid Itchy Eyes In The First Place

    1. Avoid allergens and irritants, such as dust, pet dander, and cigarette smoke.
    2. If you have allergies, try to keep your home and work environment as allergen-free as possible.
    3. Try using air purifiers or wearing protective eyewear when you are outside.
    4. Practice good eye care by using eye drops and sprays to moisturise your eyes.
    5. Wearing glasses or contacts that are comfortable and do not irritate your eyes.
    6. Taking eye supplements that help relieve dry eyes and eye strain.
    7. When using screens, take regular breaks to reduce eye fatigue and strain. Don’t forget the 20-20-20 rule.
    Healthy Screen Time Tips

    “The 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes, at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds - this helps to reduce eye strain.”

    When should you see a doctor?

    Itchy eyes can be a very annoying and distracting problem. Still, it is essential to resist the urge to rub your eyes as much as possible. Rubbing your eyes can make itching worse, cause damage to the delicate skin and tissues around the eyes, increase the risk of eye infections, etc.

    If your itchy eyes persist, get worse and/or are accompanied by other symptoms, such as redness, discharge, or vision problems - you should arrange to see an ophthalmologist or other medical professional for proper evaluation and treatment.


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