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The Purpose of Blinking

We blink multiple times every minute, but do you know why it’s so important?

Time yourself for a minute and see how many times you blink. The average for adults is between ten and twenty times per minute, with each blink lasting a tenth of a second.

Blinking Cleans and Refreshes Our Eyes

Every blink spreads fresh layers of tears across the surface of our eyes, keeping them from drying out and brushing away little irritants like dirt and dust particles that could interfere with our vision. When there is too much moisture, the excess tears drain out through the tiny little holes at the corners of our eyes (the tear ducts) and down into our nasal passages. If you’ve ever wondered why your nose gets runny when you cry, now you know the reason!

We Tend to Blink Less When We’re Focusing

Sometimes, when we’re concentrating hard on something like a book, game, project, or TV show, we end up blinking less than usual — as little as three times per minute. That’s much lower than the healthy rate of blinking our eyes rely on to do their job effectively. If we go a long time with less blinking than we should, it can compound until it becomes dry eye or eye strain.

Get Into the Habit of Blinking More

If not blinking enough is resulting in eye problems, particularly when you’re doing something that requires you to concentrate, try to make a conscious effort to blink more. If you work on it enough, you can train your eyes to blink more frequently out of habit. Any time you’re thinking or performing a task you don’t need your eyesight for, give your eyes a break.

To help get into the habit, you could even set reminders to do blinking exercises every hour. Before long, you won’t need the reminders anymore. A great, simple exercise to help keep your eyes feeling fresh is to close them, pause a moment, squeeze your eyelids, and then open them again.

The Mechanisms Behind Blinking

As simple as it seems to blink, it requires a lot of different mechanisms working in harmony in our eyes and eyelids, including different types of tear production, tiny glands producing oil to replenish the film that stops our tears from drying out, and several different sets of muscles to do the physical movement of blinking. There are many ways things can go wrong when there are so many moving parts. If you’re experiencing dry eye or eye strain and blinking exercises aren’t doing much to help, set up an appointment with us!

Do you know what’s always a sight for sore eyes? Our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain 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.