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Why You Should Avoid Rubbing Itchy Eyes

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A little boy in a red shirt is rubbing his eyes with both hands. By rubbing your itchy eyes it’s possible to injure or cause other eye problem.

Just like scratching when you have chicken pox can make you itchier and lead to problems, rubbing your itchy eyes can also cause issues. One common cause of itchy eyes is dry eye syndrome. Unfortunately, if you rub your eyes without treating the condition, you probably won’t find the relief you’re looking for. Also, it’s possible to injure or cause other eye problems by rubbing them.

If your symptoms aren’t easily relieved using a traditional method like over-the-counter (OTC) lubricating eye drops, there could be something more serious going on. Getting a comprehensive eye exam is a good idea, even if you’ve gotten one recently.

Potential Problems from Rubbing Your Eyes

Although rubbing your eye may provide temporary relief to dry and itchy eyes, it’s best to avoid it. When you stimulate the eye and eyelids with rubbing, it causes the tear glands to produce more tears, which is where some of the relief comes from. Typically this relief is short-lived and temporary.

Problems that may come from too much eye rubbing include:

  • Introducing infection to the mucus membrane by touching your eyes and face with dirty hands.
  • Allergy flare-ups by introducing allergens to the eyes.
  • Damage to the cornea. If your eyes are itchy due to dryness, this could cause damaging friction between your eyelid and the cornea. Or if there is something in your eye, rubbing them could cause the foreign object to scratch your eye or become embedded in it.
  • Increased eye pressure, which can lead to retinal detachment or worsening glaucoma.

Reasons to See the Eye Doctor

Sometimes it can be difficult to prevent eye rubbing entirely. Occasionally rubbing your eyes won’t cause any lasting damage in most situations. But if you experience any of the following symptoms after rubbing your eyes, it’s a good idea to request an appointment with your eye doctor:

  • Sudden eye pain or discomfort
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Reduced or blurry vision
  • Red and inflamed eyes
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Tiredness or weakness

Reasons for Itchy Eyes

If we’re being honest, it can be impossible to avoid feeling like we need to rub our eyes. So, it’s important to treat the itchiness at its root. The following are a few things that could lead to itchy eyes.

A woman is scratching her itchy dry eyes outdoors.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Whether due to lack of tears or premature tear evaporation, dry eye syndrome often leads to itchy, red eyes. In many cases, lubricating eye drops should be enough to manage the symptoms. But you may need to discuss other therapies with your eye doctor.


Whether you’re dealing with seasonal allergies or you’re having a reaction to something, eye allergies often lead to dry eye symptoms. And even if you’re not necessarily developing dry eye syndrome, allergies can certainly lead to itchy eyes.

Contact Lenses

You could run into itchy eyes depending on the type of contact lenses you’re wearing. For example, if you wear lenses daily for multiple days, the chances are high that you’ll end up with itchy eyes. In the worst-case scenario, you risk developing an eye infection or hypoxia.


Another common condition that leads to red, swollen, and itchy eyelids is blepharitis. A good eyelid cleaning is typically the first defense against this condition. In more severe cases, your eye doctor may prescribe a steroid eye drop to help combat dryness and itchiness.

Relieving Itchy Eyes

Even though you might temporarily find relief by rubbing your eyes, it’s important to deal with the symptoms at their root. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to getting rid of itchy eyes. Ultimately, it depends on what’s causing them. 

Some tips for relieving the itchiness include:

  • Washing eyelids: While in the shower, gently washing your eyelids with soap can help clear away debris and bacteria. This can help clear up conditions like blepharitis or dry eye.
  • Lubricating eye drops: Sometimes, your eye doctor may prescribe something stronger, like a steroid eye drop, to help stimulate tear production or reduce inflammation.
  • Warm compress: Laying a warm cloth across your eyes can help loosen up oils in your meibomian glands and get everything moving. This can help relieve dry, itchy eyes.

Don’t Live with Itchy Eyes Anymore

If you’ve tried eye drops and warm compresses and still can’t help but itch your eyes until you see stars, it’s time to sit down with the eye doctor. Give us a call at Pack & Bianes Optometry. Our helpful staff can answer your questions and get you in to see one of our optometrists for an eye examination. Once we get to the root of your itchy eyes, the eye doctor can review your treatment options.

Written by Total Vision

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