Posted by: cindyletchworth | February 9, 2015

The Blinks Have It – Why blinking is good for your eyes

Blinking is good for your eyes.

Blinking is good for your eyes.

I had been researching polar bears for an hour on the internet. Suddenly I squeezed my eyes shut so hard I felt like my lids were going to rip. I wasn’t sure why I had been so forceful, but as I opened my eyes I realized how sore they were. I started blinking rapidly then squeezed them shut again. No relief. I grabbed my lubrication drops and put some in. That helped, but the whole experience made me realize how little I had been blinking.

According to experts, the average person blinks about 15 to 20 times per minute. This is nature’s defense against dirt and debris, and also helps keep the eyes healthy by providing moisture. When we have enough fluid to lubricate the eyes, it lessens eye fatigue. Anyone who sits in front of a computer all day, staring at the screen, knows how tired your vision can become. Reason is, you can’t stare and blink at the same time, so dryness wins out.

Humans have several types of blinks. Dr. Patricia deWinter, from the University College of London, says we have spontaneous, reflexive and voluntary blinks. Voluntary blinks are something you do purposely, like the ones that happened during my research. You force yourself to blink.

Spontaneous blinks keep our eyes from drying out. This type of blinking is something we aren’t really aware of. They occur naturally. Some studies show that dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter and hormone, appears to affect how often one blinks. If someone is given a drug that alters a person’s dopamine levels, the blink rate changes. This could explain why folks with Parkinson disease blink less often than other folks. My father has this nervous system disorder and he complains of dry eye all the time. Now I know why. Parkinson patients have low dopamine levels.

The reflexive blink happens when something occurs that you hadn’t anticipated. Say you’re playing tennis, and the ball veers up towards your face. You will blink as a reflex. It’s a marvelous defense mechanism shielding your eyes from harm. Even things like loud noises will cause your eyes to close momentarily. A reflex blink also lasts slightly longer than a spontaneous one.

So blinking, it turns out, is actually a wonderful thing. We have a built in function that provides moisture and protection from elements and danger. If anyone gives you trouble when looking away from your computer for a bit, just tell them it’s necessary for overall eye health. If dry eye sets in anyway, lubricating drops or a hydrating mask can work wonders for restoring a pleasant environment for you and your eyes.


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