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Why Does My Eye Hurt When I Blink?

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A woman holding her eyes in discomfort due to pain when she blinks

Eye Comfort Matters

When our eyes are comfortable and healthy, we can focus on experiencing the world, instead of how we experience it. But when we experience eye discomfort, it’s difficult to ignore. From eyelid twitching to burning eyes, eye symptoms can interrupt our day. One symptom that demands our attention is a pain when we blink.

The average person blinks between 900–1,200 times an hour, with each blink lasting between 0.1–0.4 seconds. That’s about 10% of the time you’re awake. If your eyes hurt when you blink, that can amount to a lot of distraction and discomfort.

Multiple eye conditions and diseases can cause eye pain. But one common cause of blinking irritation is dry eye. If you’re experiencing eye pain when blinking, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Discover Eyecare in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

What Causes Eye Blinking Pain?

Although dry eye syndrome is a common cause of eye discomfort, other conditions that can cause pain with blinking, such as:

Most of the causes of blinking pain require medical attention to resolve. However, for eye conditions, including dry eye, styes, blepharitis, corneal ulcers, tear duct infections, conjunctivitis, and keratitis, our optometrists can help.

Other Notable Symptoms

In addition to your eyes hurting when you blink, you may also experience commonly related symptoms

  • Pain when moving eyes
  • Eye pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Tenderness around eyes (sinuses)

If you experience unbearable pain or sudden vision changes, it’s an eye emergency and requires immediate care. Call us for an emergency appointment. 

However, if the symptoms are tolerable but uncomfortable, you should still book an appointment as soon as possible. Then, we can evaluate your eye health and develop a personalized plan for treating your symptoms.

How Blinking Works

Blinking cleans away debris, spreads moisture, and brings oxygen to keep our eyes healthy. When our blink rate is reduced, or the quality of our blinks is affected, it can significantly harm eye health. We need to blink 900–1,200 times an hour to spread moisture across our eyes, forming a tear film

Our tear film keeps the eye’s surface hydrated, smooth, and clean. The tear film is made of 3 layers:

  • Inner mucus layer
  • Middle watery layer
  • Outer oily layer

Each layer plays a role in maintaining tear quality and quantity. Tears protect our eyes and prevent the surface from drying. When tear production is interrupted, it can hinder our eyelids from spreading moisture, resulting in dry eye.

A woman holding her glasses while rubbing her eyes with a look of frustration as she suffers from dry eye

How Dry Eye Affects Blinking

Dry eye is a condition caused by poor tear quality, related to deficiencies in the 3 tear layers. Tear production can be affected by multiple factors, including:

For people with dry eyes, dry spots on the cornea can cause sensitivity to motion. Notably, blinking can become irritating and even painful because their eyes lack lubrication. 

Other symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Gritty/scratchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Burning eyes
  • Feeling something in the eye

Dry eye is typically chronic. However, the condition can be managed to maintain comfortable vision and reduce symptoms, including blinking pain.

Digital Eye Strain & Blinking

One condition commonly associated with dry eye is digital eye strain (or computer vision syndrome). We blink almost 50% less per minute when we use digital screens. We can’t effectively support the tear film with our reduced blink rate. As a result, we experience dry eyes.

In addition to dry eyes, digital eye strain symptoms include:

  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Excessive squinting
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye irritation

Digital screens may cause temporary symptoms. Limiting screen time can help alleviate symptoms in most cases. You may try the 20-20-20 rule or artificial tears to refresh your eyes after computer use.

However, prolonged and frequent exposure will worsen symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial to visit an optometrist if you experience symptoms of digital eye strain. We can evaluate your eye health to determine if the cause is a severe vision problem.

What to Do If Your Eye Hurts When You Blink

Treating eye pain begins with a diagnosis. Our eye care team can help you learn about the cause of your blinking problem. Your optometrist will examine your eyes and ask you about your lifestyle and environmental factors. By learning about your eye health, we can recommend treatment.

If dry eye is the cause, we’ll recommend options for dry eye therapy. The type of treatment we recommend will depend on your eye health, comfort level, and lifestyle. 

Some treatment options include:

Discover Comfortable Vision

Blinking should never hurt. Discover Eyecare can help. If you’re experiencing discomfort or vision problems, contact us. We’re dedicated to healthy, comfortable vision for all our patients. Don’t settle for eye pain! Book an appointment today!

Written by Dr. Jonathan Laudadio

Jonathan was born and raised in Quebec. He moved to Abbotsford, BC, where he attended high school before moving on to UBC for his undergrad. Jonathan completed his Doctorate of Optometry at the Université de Montréal in 2004 with some training at the Portland VA Medical Centre. He has been in private practice since graduating and has worked six years in a laser surgery/ophthalmology clinic. He is a very proud father of 2 girls, plays sports, loves his Montreal Canadiens, and baseball.
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