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.
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:
- Eye injury
- Stye (or sty)
- Corneal ulcer
- Optic neuritis
- Tear duct infection
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Graves’ disease
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
- 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.
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:
- UV exposure
- Environmental conditions
- General health problems
- Digital eye strain
- Contact lens use
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
- 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.
Relieving Blinking Discomfort
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:
- Artificial tears
- Eyelid hygiene
- Medicated eye drops
- Gels or ointments
- Punctal plugs
- Nutrition changes
- Medication (oral)
- Warm compresses
- Radiofrequency (RF) therapy
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy
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!