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Phosphene from rubbing the closed eyes where first described at least since Ancient Greece, but I caught myself thinking that I wouldn't want to try it out. So I wonder, how safe it is to actually rub closed eyes or put pressure on the human eye in general? Can frequent but small, or rare but sharp, application of pressure cause myopia or other eye disorders? What is the maximum pressure before the eye is damaged? What happens with the eye if you accidentally hit it?

I remember several times during my childhood accidentally poking myself in the eye with a finger—the experience was very uncomfortable, I couldn't even open the eye for several minutes, but I don't think anything happened to my eyes since then, and my myopia was probably caused by any other factor than pressure damage.

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  • $\begingroup$ According to scientific articles I read, myopia can be caused by light pollution at night, or not enough light during the day. (In my case I had a small amount of black mold on my window, and its toxin caused a lot of health problems, e.g. diplopia, and probably myopia was a side effect as well. Now 2 days after the removal of the mold I don't need glasses anymore. I guess the complete recovery will take a few months, we will see.) $\endgroup$ – inf3rno Jan 17 '15 at 18:18
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The answer is both yes and no, depending on how often and how hard one rubs his or her own eyes.

Occasional light rubbing is not a problem-- it stimulates tear production and relieves stress by lowering heart rate via the oculocardiac reflex.

Frequent hard rubbing is a problem-- it can worsen eyesight in people who already have progressive myopia, and worst-case-scenario lead to retinal detachment. For those with glaucoma, can interrupt blood flow and even cause nerve damage. It can (but rarely) scratch, tear, or deform the cornea leading to pain and distorted vision. It can lead to damage of small delicate vessels, causing a subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is benign despite its worrisome appearance.

It is generally recommended to just avoiding rubbing the eyes altogether!

References:

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