Why Do We Need to Blink?

Blinking does a lot for the health and function of our eyes.

Have you ever counted the number of times you blink in one minute? On average, adults blink between ten and twenty times per minute, and each blink lasts just a tenth of a second.

We Blink to Keep Our Eyes Clean and Fresh

With every blink, our eyelids spread fresh layers of tears across the surface of our eyes. It keeps them from drying out and brushes away tiny irritants like dust and dirt that might interfere with our vision. When we have excess tears, they drain out through the tear ducts (those tiny little holes at the corners of our eyes) into our nasal passages. That’s actually why our noses tend to run when we cry.

Focusing Hard? You Might Be Blinking Less.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re concentrating hard on something like a book, show, game, or project, you’re not blinking as much as usual? You’re not imagining things; while focusing, we tend to blink as few as three times per minute — much less frequently than the healthy rate our eyes rely on to operate most effectively. The longer we go without blinking often, the more it can compound into problems like dry eye and eye strain.

Train Yourself to Blink More

If infrequent blinking is leading to eye trouble for you, especially when doing activities that require intense concentration, making a conscious effort to blink more could help. Work on making it a habit to close your eyes when thinking or performing tasks you don’t need your vision for. Setting reminders to do a few blinking exercises each hour can help, and before long, the reminders won’t be necessary.

One good exercise we can do to keep our eyes feeling fresh is to close them, pause for a moment, squeeze our eyelids, and then open our eyes again.

What Goes Into a Simple Blink?

So many different little mechanisms have to work in harmony in our eyes and eyelids each time we blink. There’s the different types of tear production, there are tiny glands producing oil to replenish the film that keeps our tears from drying out. With all that working together, there are a lot of ways it can go wrong. If you’re experiencing eye strain or dry eye and blinking exercises aren’t helping, give us a call to set up an appointment!

Our patients are always a sight for sore eyes!

Top image by Flickr user Regan Walsh used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.