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3 Tips For Eye-Rubbers: Ditch the Itch and Avoid the Graft

At The Eye Practice, we manage keratoconus from beginning to […]

By Published On: 18 February 20153.8 min read

At The Eye Practice, we manage keratoconus from beginning to end. This relatively common disease of the cornea – or front surface of the eye – leads to progressive distortion in vision and can ultimately lead to a corneal graft.

Managing keratoconus is our passion and we tackle it from all angles to try and keep you out of needing a corneal graft – often permanently.

One of the first things we do is tackle eye-rubbing.  Keratoconus is often seen in people who also suffer from atopic conditions such as hay-fever, allergies, eczema, asthma etc.  They are commonly chronic eye-rubbers and unfortunately that is one of the worst things a keratoconus sufferer can do, as eye-rubbing hastens the progression of the disease.  Rubbing your eyes is bad for you.  We take eye rubbing very seriously!

Here are 3 tips to cut down on eye-rubbing:

If you must rub, don’t rub your cornea

Patients often say, Doctor, you don’t understand; when I rub my eyes it just feels so GOOD…  It’s hard to argue with this, so once we’ve given the lecture on the dangers of eye-rubbing, we try to give them some strategies for breaking the habit.  If you find the eye-rubbing sensation soothing, try rubbing around the eyes instead.   Touch your index fingers to your thumbs to make a circle and allow this to rest around the eye, with no pressure on the eye itself.  Then you can rotate your hands around the eyes, bearing on the cheekbones and eyebrows.  Many patients find this brings relief from tired eyes, as it gently massages the muscles around the eyes.  Alternatively, try rubbing somewhere else.   A good rub of the earlobes feels surprisingly good too!

Sort out the itch

The main reason for eye-rubbing is itchy eyes.  And with good reason.  Keratoconus sufferers are much more likely to suffer from seasonal allergies than the rest of us. Stamping out the itch is one of the best things we can do for our patients.  Anti-histamines and mast-cell stabilisers are available in eye drops, which are used twice a day to combat allergic conjunctivitis.  Our two favourites here are Patanol, which requires prescription and Zaditen preservative-free ampules that can be purchased over the counter from your local pharmacy.

We sometimes recommend oral antihistamines to get to itch from the inside out.  Be on the watch out for dry eyes, when using oral antihistamines.  If you are wearing contact lenses and you notice your eyes become dry after taking oral antihistamines, it is best to stop the medication and seek our advice.

In severe cases, the best option may be a short course of topical steroid drops to really nail that inflammation and itching.  At The Eye Practice we use a compounding pharmacy to make up preservative-free eye drops, so you can relax in the knowledge that your eye drops are not doing more harm than good.

Cool it down

Sometimes the best treatment is also the least invasive, and one of the best treatments for itchy eyes is simply a cold pack applied to the closed eyes.  One of those gel eye-masks available from the pharmacy is perfect; just freeze it and then pop it on the eyes as you relax.  Cold helps switch off the body’s inflammation response, which is exactly the effect we’re after.

More about eye-rubbing and keratoconus

Eye-rubbing has been shown to aggravate keratoconus and cause progression of the disease. If we can stamp out eye-rubbing, we hope to slow down the progression sooner rather than later.  Tackling itchy eyes is also of huge benefit in terms of contact lens wear.  Rubbing your eyes with a hard contact lens (RGP) in place is a no-no and can lead to corneal thinning and scarring as the lens rubs against the fragile centre of your cornea.

One of the most common times to want to rub your eyes is straight after removing your contact lenses at the end of the day.  Many of our patients complain that the itch at this stage is nearly unbearable.  If you are already using a preservative-free antihistamine or mast-cell stabiliser twice day, make sure you have your cold pack ready to use as soon as you remove your lenses.  It will be bliss!

Comfortable, itch-free eyes lead to successful contact lens wear and nothing makes us happier than seeing our keratoconic patients comfortable in contact lenses and avoiding a corneal graft.

Do you have keratoconus?  Have you previously failed in contact lenses?  We succeed where others fail.  Call us today for an appointment on 02 9290 1899.


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