Are we blinking less often?
What are the causes and symptoms, and what can we do about it?
Most people blink between 15 and 20 times per minute.
Blinking is essential to keep your eyes in good shape. It will clean and moisten the eyes. Blinking clears debris like tiny dust particles from your eye surface. Blinking also distributes the secretions from your tear glands, your tears, over the exposed area of your eyeball and thus provides oxygen and nutrients to the eye surface.
All this is necessary to prevent infections and see clearly.
Recent research also shows that blinking allows your brain to rest briefly, so you can better focus afterward.
What happens when you blink less often?
Your eyes will dry out if you don’t blink often enough. This will cause irritation, redness, pain, and blurry vision.
You will also have a higher risk of infection because debris like dust particles will not be cleared away by blinking and lack of oxygen.
Your cornea needs the tear film for oxygen supply since it does not have blood vessels. The tear film gets distributed over your cornea every time you blink. If you don’t blink, the cornea will swell due to lack of oxygen, and this will cause blurry vision.
Not blinking for a prolonged time can happen when your eyelids don’t close completely while sleeping. If you blink less often than usual, your cornea will still have enough oxygen.
Why do we blink less often?
Blinking is an automatic movement of the eyelids. You blink without thinking about it. You tend to blink less when you focus hard on a particular task or object.
Staring at a computer screen, tablet, or cellphone has that same effect.
Research shows blinking rate can drop by 60%, causing ‘digital eye strain and dry eyes. Since our eyes have never had more screentime than nowadays, eye strain and dry eyes are dramatically on the rise, even in young children.
The most common symptoms of digital eye strain include:
- Dry eye symptoms like grittiness, redness, itchy or watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Discomfort when wearing contacts
What to do: the 20/20/20 rule
A handy tool to combat digital eye strain and dry eyes is the 20/20/20 rule.
It’s very simple, every 20 minutes of screentime, look away to an object in the distance ( at least 20 feet away) for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a rest and prevent eyes from drying out and becoming strained.
Other practical tips to prevent digital eye strain are:
- Increase font size
- Position your screen a little further away, at least at arm’s length
- Dim the brightness on your screen
- Use lubricating eye drops
- Correct your vision with the right prescription and wear your eyeglasses