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Does rubbing or touching eyes cause infection?

Bacteria, viruses and microbes - keep them away from your eyes.

By Published On: 24 May 20221.6 min read

The body has many defences against attacks by bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that cause infection. For example, our skin is a physical barrier to unwanted microbes. The surface of our skin is home to many different bacteria and micro-organisms, some of which can be harmful to our health. But our skin helps protect us from infection by these micro-organisms.

However, what protects our eyes from the micro-organisms on the surface of our fingers and hands?

Man rubbing his eyes


Washing with soap and water is one of the most effective ways of killing micro-organisms on the skin of the hands and fingers. Rub hands under running water with enough soap to create a lather for at least 20 seconds for best results.


  • The eyelashes provide a physical barrier to any particles and debris that may fall into the eye.
  • The eyelids work to sweep away any debris caught in the lashes or anything that gets past the lashes into the eye
  • The tears wash away any unwanted particles and dilute any liquid that may get into the eye.
  • The tear film contains substances known to be anti-microbial (such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, and lipocalin), which attack unwanted micro-organisms that may have entered the tear film.

The eye’s natural defence against microbes may not be enough to prevent infection if, for example, the eye’s front surface (cornea) is damaged due to eye rubbing; poorly fitted, over worn, or dirty contact lenses; or touching the eyes with unclean hands. In these cases, a course of antibiotic drops may be required.

Do not underestimate the importance of washing your hands!

If you are suffering from pain, redness, irritation, light sensitivity, or blurred vision, please contact us ( as soon as possible to organise an eye test, to rule out infection.


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