Is Rubbing Your Eyes Bad?

Rubbing itchy eyes can feel so good. However, rubbing your eyes is not a good idea. The negative effects of eye rubbing outweigh the short term relief you get from doing it. If you rub your eyes once in a while, such as once or twice a week, this is unlikely to cause any major issues. This also depends on how aggressively you are rubbing your eyes and how much pressure you are applying to your eyes. Frequent and aggressive eye rubbing is not a good idea. Keep reading to understand what happens if you rub your eyes too much.

Corneal Abrasion

Eye rubbing is actually a mild form of trauma to the eyeball. If you do it too hard, you can even cause a part of the cornea to slough off leading to a corneal abrasion. Corneal abrasions are usually very painful and need to be seen by an ophthalmologist, who can prescribe antibiotics for you. In some cases, corneal abrasions can even lead to corneal infections which can cause a permanent decrease in your vision.

Keratoconus And Eye Rubbing

Did you know that if you rub your eyes constantly, it can lead to an eye disease called keratoconus? Aggressively rubbing your eye can weaken the front part of your eye called the cornea and cause it to become altered in shape. This can make your vision blurry to the point of not being fully correctable even with glasses and contact lenses.

Eye Inflammation, Eyelid Inflammation And Eye Redness

Unfortunately, eye rubbing to relieve itchy eyes, can actually just make your itchy eyes worse. This is through the release of histamine. Additionally, the eyelids can become inflamed with constant eye rubbing and this could lead to a worsening of blepharitis, styes, and also aggravate meibomian gland dysfunction.

People who are eye rubbing constantly will often have bloodshot eyes. The eye redness medical term is usually referred to as conjunctival injection. This means that the white part of a person’s eye is red. Patients may then use “get the red out” eye drops which may provide short-term relief, but ultimately will not solve the problem. This can then result in a vicious cycle of red and irritated eyes and eyelids.

Why Does Rubbing Eyes Feel Good?

Why does it feel good to rub your eyes? Rubbing your eyes feels good because it causes a temporary disruption in your receptors that are making the eyes feel itchy. However, as you can imagine, once you stop eye rubbing, the discomfort will return. In fact, in the cases of inflammation and scratches on the cornea, the pain or itching could even get worse.

Related: Corneal Abrasion: Symptoms, Treatment & Healing Time

Summary: How Bad Is Rubbing Your Eyes?

Depending on how often and how hard you rub your eyes, it can be pretty bad for you. If you are rubbing your eyes once a day or more, it can cause eye problems like keratoconus, inflammation, eye redness, and even a scratch on the cornea. If you rub your eyes once a week or less, it is unlikely to cause keratoconus or chronic inflammation, but it still could cause a corneal abrasion. If you find yourself eye rubbing frequently, make an appointment with an ophthalmologist who can evaluate the health of your eye.


Santodomingo-Rubido J, Carracedo G, Suzaki A, Villa-Collar C, Vincent SJ, Wolffsohn JS. Keratoconus: An updated review.Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2022;45(3):101559.

Najmi H, Mobarki Y, Mania K, et al. The correlation between keratoconus and eye rubbing: a review.Int J Ophthalmol. 2019;12(11):1775-1781. Published 2019 Nov 18

Ben-Eli H, Erdinest N, Solomon A. Pathogenesis and complications of chronic eye rubbing in ocular allergy.Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019;19(5):526-534.

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