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Is Rubbing Your Eyes Bad for You?

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A woman stops working on her laptop to rub her eyes

There are times when rubbing your eyes could be an automatic response. For example, it’s not uncommon to gently rub your eyes in the morning. This can help clear them and stimulate tear production. It’s unlikely you will damage your eyes or cause problems if this is the extent of your eye rubbing.

But what if you’re experiencing some form of eye irritation that causes you to rub them vigorously or excessively? In that case, you should see us for an eye exam to determine why they’re irritated. Too much rubbing could damage your eyes, worsen existing conditions like glaucoma, and increase your risk of getting an eye infection.

Although rubbing your eyes may help them feel better in the moment, it’s best to seek treatment and care that can provide lasting relief. As your local eye care team, we’re here to help you with a few things you can try to avoid eye rubbing.

Potential Causes for Eye Rubbing

You may rub your eyes for many reasons, from getting the sleep out of them, to dust or other contaminants, to having an infection. Some of the common reasons our patients rub their eyes include:


Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, can feel like a very valid reason to rub your eyes—but rubbing is not the answer. Figuring out what is causing the allergic reaction and avoiding triggers is ideal for getting truly lasting relief.

When you struggle with eye allergies, we can help. During your visit, we can help you determine the cause of your allergies and provide recommendations for lifestyle changes and treatments that can help with symptom relief.


If you’ve ever had hair in your eye, you know that rubbing the hair out as quickly as possible is often the first reaction, but you should actually avoid rubbing contaminants in your eyes. Rubbing your eyes when hair or another foreign object is causing discomfort can lead to corneal abrasions.

Corneal abrasions are one of the most common eye injuries, and while they aren’t always severe, they can be considered an eye emergency. So, if you experience abrasion symptoms after rubbing, such as blurry vision, light sensitivity, or pain, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for emergency eye care.


A corneal abrasion left untreated could result in an eye infection. However, simply introducing germs to your eye from your hand could also cause an infection of the sensitive tissue of your eye. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your hands are clean if you need to touch your face anywhere near your eyes—and when you put in contacts. 

Contact lenses

Contact lenses could cause you to rub your eyes for several reasons. For example, improperly fitted lenses may irritate your cornea and cause discomfort, but you could also be allergic to your contact solution, your lenses may cause a corneal ulcer, or your contacts could worsen a condition like dry eye disease. 

If you notice you’re often rubbing your eyes when your contacts are in, visiting us for a contact lens exam can help. We can help you figure out what’s causing your discomfort and provide suggestions for keeping your eyes happy even while you’re wearing contacts.

A young woman in a sweater is rubbing her eyes with both hands

Risks of Excessive Eye Rubbing

Remember, rubbing your eyes gently when you first wake up may be okay, but it’s important to be mindful of how much and how hard you’re rubbing them to reduce the potential effects rubbing can have on your eye health.

The tissue around your eyes and your eyes themselves are sensitive. So, even what you may consider light rubbing could damage your eyes or the surrounding skin. 

If you already have a pre-existing eye condition, rubbing can actually cause the condition to worsen. Continuous rubbing can also cause some eye conditions, such as progressive optic neuropathy, which can cause changes to your vision that are similar to glaucoma’s effects.

What Can You Do Instead?

If you find you’re rubbing your eyes a lot, there are a few things you can try at home to relieve the symptoms causing you to rub, including the following:

  • Use a warm compress
  • Eliminate or reduce allergens
  • Take a break from screens

If these strategies aren’t bringing your eyes the relief they need, we can help you find the right form of treatment during an eye exam. There are more advanced treatment options available, such as eye drops, prescription medication, and treatments for the root cause of conditions that can cause eye rubbing, such as dry eye and digital eye strain.

Support to Help You Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

You shouldn’t have to spend time wondering if you’re damaging your eyes because you can’t keep yourself from rubbing them. Our goal at Airdrie Family Eye Doctors is to do our best to change your life through your vision care.

Request an appointment today to speak with us about your family’s eye care needs. Our friendly and knowledgeable team can answer your questions and help you find the right solution for eye rubbing.

Written by Dr. Heather Cowie

More Articles By Dr. Heather Cowie

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