Eye Test

Wanna Be Completely Horrified? Here’s an MRI of What Happens When You Rub Your Eyes

It might even cause a terrible eye condition.

Nov 9 / Tony Tran
Getty / Futurism
Image by Getty / Futurism

Bad news for anyone with allergies: You should should stop rubbing your eyes ASAP.

Daniel Gatinel, an ophthalmologist and head of the anterior and refractive surgery department of the Rothschild Foundation, took an MRI of a healthy patient rubbing their eyes to see if it might cause certain eye conditions. The result was horrifying.

Take a look at the video, first released in 2019 but which is going viral today:

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That’s right. When you rub your eyeballs — one of the most extraordinary and delicate achievements of billions of years of evolution — they just sort of squish around in your skull in a disgusting fashion.

And the worst part? It doesn’t just look bad. It’s actually bad for you. 

The MRI was taken as part of Gatinel’s research into how eye rubbing impacts overall eye health. He and his team discovered that it might have much more deleterious effects than previously imagined. In fact, they believe that it could be the cause of “keratoconus,” a condition that causes the cornea to bulge outward. 

“For the first time, dynamic MRI objectivates the effect of eye rubbing on the cornea and adjacent orbital structures,” Gatinel wrote in the description of the video of the MRI on YouTube. “This material provides another evidence that keratoconus (and possibly other ocular conditions) is caused by excessive eye rubbing.”

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Gatinel’s findings are backed up by a 2019 review of 24 studies into whether eye rubbing is linked to keratoconus. The review found that eye rubbing did indeed cause “the thinning of keratocyte,” which can lead to the condition. 

Keratoconus can be a debilitating condition, and steps should be taken to avoid it at all costs, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Not only can it cause blurred vision and sensitivity to light, but really bad cases can also require cornea transplants — a serious and risky surgery. 

So what are you supposed to do when your eyes start itching then? Your best bet is probably to treat the cause issue rather than the symptom. This could include anything from using doctor recommended eye drops to avoiding eye irritants like contact lenses entirely.

And if you do get the urge to rub, just remember this nightmare-inducing MRI.

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