Now more than ever, we're aware of how often we touch our face, especially when wearing a face mask in public. Also, have you noticed this to be true with rubbing your eyes?

Rubbing your eyes may be a reflex when you wake up in the morning or even an attempt to relieve dry or itchy eyes. Whether it's because of allergies, a morning routine, or a more serious eye condition it is time to break this habit. This isn't helping your eyes, it's hurting them.

How could something like rubbing your eyes be harmful?Here are three common questions about rubbing your eyes, and alternatives for treating your eyes with the care they deserve.

1. Can you get sick for rubbing your eyes?  The short answer is yes.

Do you know how many times you touch your face? Have you ever counted? A group of medical students studied this. The results:"On average, each of the 26 observed students touched their face 23 times per hour." They also discovered that half the time when someone touches their face they are either touching their mouth, nose, eyes, or a combination of these.(1) Think about everything you touch in an hour—besides your face. That thought alone might make you think twice about rubbing your eyes and more about the need to wash your hands.

Bacteria can easily get transferred from your hands to your eyes and cause conditions such as conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. This isn't just a kid-thing, adults can get pink eye too. The best way to avoid pink eye and prevent the spread, is to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands, not touching your eyes, and using clean towels and other products around the face. If you believe you may have pink eye, contact your doctor at VisionFirst for the next steps for treatment.

Besides bacteria, sometimes allergens are the culprit making us sick. Think about how often you may have something caught in your eyelash. Allergies are no joke in this part of the country, and with the leaves falling and the weather changing, we may be tempted to rub our eyes more often these days.

Instead of using the reflex of rubbing your eyes and using your fingers, it's best to use a clean washcloth to remove whatever may be caught in your eyelash. Too often allergens are caught by our eyelashes and transferred to our eyes' surface when we rub them.

2. Can rubbing your eyes cause damage?The reflex we have to rub our eyes is typically because this initiates the tear production our eyes need to stay lubricated. While this lubrication is important and rubbing your eyes may not seem like a big deal, this can actually cause damage to and around your eyes.

Many times we rub our eyes when we're tired, but did you know this can actually make you look more tired than you are? The pressure from rubbing your eyes can cause these tiny blood vessels around your eyes to break and cause dark circles. Besides aiding in the signs of agin, the pressure from rubbing your eyes can be dangerous. "Aggressive eye rubbing can increase eye pressure by as much as 20 times." (2) Sometimes this eye pressure can cause damage to a person's vision, lens or even cornea.

Have you experienced any of these symptoms after rubbing your eyes?• eye pain• light sensitivity• reduced vision• blurry vision• redness or inflammation• headache• nausea• fatigue (3)If so, make sure you contact VisionFirst to get your eyes examined by one of our doctors.

3. How can you avoid rubbing your eyes?If it's that important not to rub your eyes, then how do we do it? Changing this natural reflex may not be easy.

Think about when you're most tempted to rub your eyes. Is it first thing in the morning? Or even when you're tired and headed toward bed at night?• Instead, treat your eyes with care by taking a warm washcloth around your eyelid first thing in the morning and the last thing before bed. The moisture from the washcloth will help with the moisture in your eyes and cleaning around your eyes may alleviate any need to rub them during those times in your day.• If moisture is what you need, reach out to us at VisionFirst about what lubricant eye drops are best for your eyes. Applying a night lubricant may be the trick to break the habit of rubbing your eyes.

Now that the weather is cooler, your eyes may be dry because of the heat inside your house. • Consider using a humidifier in rooms where you need a little extra moisture during those winter months.

If you find your eye-rubbing habit is hard to break, then you may need to make extra efforts.• Be mindful of your hands and even wear gloves as a reminder to not touch and rub your eyes.

Most important, though, is to pay attention to your eye health.• Be aware of why you're rubbing your eyes and how ofter. If your eyes are more itchy than normal or you notice a change in your eye health, don't hesitate to reach out to our VisionFirst expert eye care team for an appointment.

If you have any further questions about your eye health or eye care. Contact us at VisionFirst. We'd be happy to answer your questions and hear your concerns.

(1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25637115/  (2) http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2012/09/18/3592456.ht. (3) https://visionsource-littleton.com/2016/06/08/why-rubbing-your-eyes-can-harm-your-vision/

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