Ouch! We all know that irritated dry eye feeling that comes along with staring at a screen for far too long. Hey, I’m dealing with it right now as we speak (or as I type?). Our eyes strain to stay focused on the artificially illuminated images and it takes a toll on our overworked eyeballs. For those who work full time on their laptop, they’re spending about 8 hours a day staring at a screen. If that isn’t enough, the average person spends at least 2 hours scrolling through their phone, staring at yet again another screen. That’s 10 full hours of staring.
Not only that, but then we have to deal with commuting. Again our eyes have to stay focused for extended periods of time. Often resulting in tunnel vision and burning, sleepy eyes.
Your eyes need a break!
Instinctively, when your eyes start to feel a bit irritated you rub them for relief. While that might alleviate the situation momentarily, you could actually be making the situation worse.
If your eyes feel itchy or irritated, it’s because they’ve been dried out or may have something in them that shouldn’t be there. The only thing that will every solve this problem is lubrication. Rubbing is never the answer. In fact, innocently rubbing your eyes to rid yourself of an itch is opening your eyes to a multitude of issues such as:
1. Scratched corneas
Your eyes may be bothering you due to particles that made their way in. And when you scratch, you are rubbing those particles into your eyes and could actually cause them to scratch your eye. This happened to me a few years ago on the beach. Some sand blew into my face, I rubbed my eyes to get it out, and ended up severely scratching my cornea. By rubbing my eyes, I made the situation much worse.
2. Darker circles around the eyes
Those dark circles around your eyes aren’t actually caused by sleep deprivation. They are actually the result of the tiny blood vessels around your eyes breaking and rising to the surface, mostly due to accidental eye rubbing during your sleeping hours.
3. More itching and possible Infection
Think about what you’re using to touch your fragile eyes with. More likely than not, you’re not washing your hands before you give your eyes a good rub down. Your fingers are crawling with bacteria. And now you are transferring that bacteria into your eyes, opening yourself up to infections such as pink eye (yuck!) And if you happen to scratch your eye with your dirty hands, then you’re putting yourself at risk for some serious long-term damage including impairment or loss of eyesight.
Most importantly, rubbing your eyes might feel good at the moment, but you really are making the situation worse. Rubbing causes your body to release more histamines, which ultimately causes more itching.
What reasons do we have to rub our eyes?
You probably do it more often than you realize. Once we identify the reasons and moments that we may be touching our eyes, the better we will become at avoiding this dirty practice.
Staring at screens for too long
As I’d mentioned above, many people don’t have a choice in this matter. It is literally their job to work in front of a computer screen, so their eyes are exposed every day for long periods of time. The brightness from the monitors causes the eyes to strain and dry out.
Wear contact lenses that dry out your eyes
More and more people are taking off their glasses and switching over to contact lenses. At the forefront, this is an issue because they are blocking their eyes from receiving the oxygen they need. And as for the rubbing, there is already a large foreign object lodged in their eye. And when they scratch, that object is getting rubbed up against their cornea. This is opening up a huge opportunity for scratches and infections.
Everyday irritants that you cannot escape from
Sometimes your eyes just itch. Be it from allergies, tiredness, or attack of the traveling itch (we’ve all been there.) And if there’s an itch, you just want to scratch it. Every once in a while you’re going to subconsciously do it. But don’t make a practice of it. Make a point to consciously remind yourself not to rub your eyes.
If you want to keep looking, you better not touch!
Now you know all of the horrible things that can happen to your eyes if you touch them. Itching can be annoying, but on the grand scheme of things it’s not so bad. Imagine losing your eyesight due to an infected scratch, something that could have totally been avoided. So it’s better to just not, right?
But don’t worry, I won’t let you suffer. You do have alternative options to alleviate your itch.
Always have your eye drops with you
Since many itches are caused by tiny particles floating into your eyes, keep saline solution or lubricating eye-drops on hand. If your eyes start to feel a bit dry or irritated, give them a good flush. This will resolve your issue and revitalize your eyes.
Use tissue if you really have to
Don’t touch with your hands! They’re dirty! Instead, keep a pack of tissues within reach to tap your eyes instead of rub. This way there is no direct contact with the bacteria on your hands, and you are less likely to cause any damage to your cornea. Don’t think you’re in the clear because you’re using a tissue though. Still don’t rub them! I said tap!
Treat your eyes with the utmost care, and they will continue to expose you to the beautiful sights of this world. Don’t risk your vision by the instant gratification that comes with rubbing an itch. Take the necessary precautions. And look out for your eyes.