Have you ever noticed how often you blink your eyes? You might now that I've planted the seed, but most of us go about our daily lives and never realize that we may blink our eyes as many as 17,000 to 20,000 times a day. This amounts to a normal blinkrate of about 12-14 blinks per minute.
Why do we blink so often? Really, the purpose of the blink is to redistribute moisture across the surface of the eye. As the eyelid blinks down on the eye, it spreads tears secreted by the lacrimal gland from the upper outside corner of the eye down towards the inner nasal side of the eye. This brings new moisture onto the surface and pushes older moisture towards the drainage ducts.
This should occur about 12 times a minute. But, when we visually concentrate on something this blink rate can be cut in half or more. This is certainly the case when we are working on computers or reading books. (click here to see out posts on Computer Vision Syndrome). We simply concentrate more and blink less. And this means less moisture being introduced and spread across the surface of the eye.
This leads to Dry Eye Syndrome, which can be felt as redness, dryness, sandy-feeling, itching or moderate pain. The dryness can also cause fluctuating or blurry vision.
It would be great if we could set up a "blinking alarm," that would go off every 5 seconds to remind us to blink while we're on the computer. But that would probably be a little annoying and impractical. Yet, there are some ways to compensate for a lowered blink rate. Artificial tears are a great supplement. Prescription eye drops, such as Restasis, may also be very effective. And, tear savers or punctal plugs are another great option for retaining ocular surface moisture to combat the effects of a lowered blink rate. The best plan is to discuss your computer use and related symptoms with your optometrist so that a treatment can be tailored to your individual needs.
As always, thanks for reading and don't forget to blink!