Excessive blinking is when you blink more than normal. It may happen all the time or every once in a while. It’s most common in children, but it also happens in adults.
Blinking is good for your eyes. Blinking is a reflex, which means your body does it automatically. You can also make yourself blink when you want to. Blinking lubricates and cleans your eyes by spreading your tears over its outer surface. It also protects your eye by closing it to keep out dust, other irritants, very bright light, and foreign objects. The number of times you blink changes with age. Newborns only blink about two times a minute. That number goes up as they grow. Teens blink around 15 times a minute. It’s about the same in adults.
Lots of things can lead to excessive blinking. They include:
• An ingrown eyelash
• A scratch on your eye (corneal abrasion)
• Dust or something else in your eye
• Dry eye
• Eye infection or pinkeye (conjunctivitis)
• Eyelid spasms (blepharospasm)
• Facial tic or habit
• Eyelids that didn’t form the right way
• Untreated vision problems
• Uneven or crossed eyes (exotropia)
• Neurological or psychological problems
• Anxiety, stress
Some neurologic conditions are known to cause excessive blinking. However, it’s important to remember that the odds of your excessive blinking being a serious condition are very low.
• Wilson’s disease.
This condition is caused by excess copper in your body. It gets deposited in different organs, causing different symptoms. When it’s deposited in your brain, it can cause a variety of neurologic symptoms in addition to excessive blinking. This might include clumsiness, facial grimacing, and tremors.
• Multiple sclerosis.
This condition affects your central nervous system. Other symptoms besides excessive blinking include problems with vision, balance, coordination, and ability to control your muscles.
• Tourette syndrome.
This condition causes sudden involuntary movements and vocal outbursts. When the muscle movement is around the eye, it can cause excessive blinking.
Treatment for excessive blinking depends on what’s causing it:
• Ingrown eyelash/foreign object. The eyelash or other irritant is removed from the eye.
• Allergies, conjunctivitis or dry eye. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription eye drops or other treatments.
• Corneal abrasion. Your child may need to wear a patch. This reduces blinking and helps the scratch heal. Moisturizing or antibiotic eye drops/ointment may also be used.
• Refractive error. Glasses are prescribed when excessive blinking is caused by a refractive error like nearsightedness (myopia).
• Strabismus. Sometimes glasses alone can straighten a child’s eyes. Other children need eye exercises or eye muscle surgery to align the eyes.
• Habit tic. Excessive blinking from a tic usually doesn’t need treatment. Tics can take months to go away. Talk with your pediatrician to find what triggers your child’s tic. Tics are made worse by stress, fatigue, anxiety or as a side effect of ADHD medications.
If your child has other tic symptoms (like vocal tics, which include coughing or throat clearing), your doctor may refer you to a neurologist. This can be a sign of Tourette’s syndrome.
If no cause is found, and there are no other symptoms, observation is usually all that is needed. If you see any new symptoms, see your ophthalmologist for a follow-up exam
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