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7 Things That Could Happen If You Keep Rubbing Your Eyes

It may feel good temporarily, but it can cause lasting damage.

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Stop rubbing your eyes

If you’ve got bad allergies or stare at a computer screen all day, sometimes nothing feels more satisfying then giving your eyes a good rub. There’s a reason it feels therapeutic: Rubbing eyes stimulates the vagus nerve, which can slow down your heartbeat and relieve stress.

That said, rubbing eyes often can result in significant damage, from causing eye disease to exacerbating existing conditions and increasing your risk of infection. Here are seven things that can happen if you keep rubbing your eyes.

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You’ll get a serious eye disease

“Chronic eye rubbing can result in the weakening of the cornea and the distortion of the cornea called keratoconus,” according to Mark Mifflin, MD, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah. Continuous rubbing of the corneal tissue can cause it to thin and become more cone-shaped. If the damage is severe enough, you could require a corneal transplant.

Here are 11 things your doctor can tell just by looking at you.

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You’ll scratch your cornea

That eyelash or piece of dust in your eye is irritating, and it’s tempting to rub it. But that can make the situation worse. You run the risk of scratching your cornea, a common condition that typically heals in a day or two but can result in an ulcer if left untreated, according to the Mayo Clinic. Use water or saline to rinse your eye instead. Don’t miss these remedies for dry and irritated eyes.

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You’ll make your glaucoma worse

If you already have this serious eye condition, rubbing might make it worse, according to professor Charles McMonnies from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of New South Wales. Glaucoma is caused by fluid building up in the front of your eyes, which can damage the optic nerve and eventually cause blindness. Rubbing eyes can disrupt blood flow back to them, leading to nerve damage and permanent loss of vision. Here are some more shocking diseases that eye doctors find first.

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You’ll make your nearsightedness worse

People with progressive myopia—better known as nearsightedness—may find that rubbing eyes results in worse vision. Nearly 9.6 million people are what is known as highly myopic and their eyes degenerate over time, according to research from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Here are 17 things you can do to improve your vision.

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You’ll give yourself an infection

No matter how often you wash or sanitize your hands, they can still pick up thousands of germs every day. Touching your eyes with your hands can transfer bacteria that can cause conjunctivitis, or pink eye. If your eyes get infected, a warm compress may help soothe it. Be sure you’re not also making these 10 eye health mistakes.

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You’ll make your eyelid go lax

Rubbing eyes can injure more than your eyeballs themselves. “The eyelid can, over time, lose elasticity,” Mifflin says. “That’s a less serious problem, but still not something we want to happen.” Is there any safe amount of rubbing your eyes? Mifflin recommends that you apply the same amount of pressure to your eyes that you would if you were drying your face with a towel. Here’s how to get rid of a stye – the right way.

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You’ll get bloodshot eyes and dark circles

These may seem like cosmetic concerns, but if you rub your eyes hard enough, you might cause tiny blood vessels in your eyes to break. That could result in bloodshot eyes, according to WebMD. The blood will then flow to surrounding tissue, which might give you those dark circles under your eyes.  Next, read about the 56 old-time home remedies we’ve forgotten about – but need to bring back ASAP. 

Originally Published on Reader's Digest