Blinking is both a voluntary and involuntary action. When you’re thinking about it, you can control the speed and frequency of your blinking. Yet blinking is far too important a task to be left entirely up to our conscious minds. Your muscles have an ingrained reflex response that causes you to blink even if you’re not aware of it.
But why is blinking so important? Without blinking, the human eye would be unable to function. We rely on blinking for everything from comfort to eye infection prevention. Here are just a few of the responsibilities our eyelids shoulder every day.
The primary function of blinking is to make sure those tears your eyes are producing actually get spread around. The tears in your eyes are actually a complicated process. It’s more than just water cascading around your eye now and then.
First, small glands in the upper eyelid secrete “salt water” tears that are spread throughout the eye when you blink. Conversely, there are glands on the edge of the eyelids that create special oils. It is the combination of these oils and the eye’s natural tears that keep the surface of the eye properly lubricated. Without the oils, tears could overflow and quickly run out of the eye or get swept away by eyelashes. These oils also keep tears from evaporating before they can properly do their job. An imbalance in this oil-tear ratio can result in watery or dry eyes.
Aside from just keeping your eyes hydrated, tears are also vital to keeping your eyes clean. Eyes are pretty liquidus in nature, and this makes them extra susceptible to dirt and debris, which can easily stick to the surface of the eye and cause discomfort or damage. Throughout the day, your eyes face an onslaught of debris and small particles from the air. Frequent blinking functions much like a good set of windshield wipers and keeps the surface of your eyes clear, protecting you from unnecessary pain or blurred vision.
Wearing prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses can also help your eyes stay clean as they block a lot of oncoming debris. And the less debris that gets into your eyes, the less severe spring allergy symptoms will be.
Digital eye strain
Computers have benefited us in many ways. Nearly every aspect of our lives, from business to communication has been revolutionized by the tiny screens we carry around in our pockets. But there’s always a downside. With computers, the downside is our eye health.
Evidence on the effects of consistent, long-term exposure to the light from computer screens is not yet available, but for now, we know that there are definitely short-term issues. The biggest one is digital eye strain. On average, people staring at screens blink about 66 percent less frequently than normal. This contributes to dry eye, eye strain, and blurred vision.
When you’re on the computer, remember to blink, and invest in a bottle or two of eye drops. Taking breaks every fifteen minutes or so can also help.
Blue light, another computer-related cause of digital eye strain can be mitigated with computer glasses. These glasses come with a special coating that blocks potentially harmful blue light from reaching the eyes. Computer glasses from 39 Dollar Glasses utilize Blue495 Anti-Glare coating to protect against both blue light and screen glare.
Contact lenses and blinking
While prescription glasses have no effect on blinking, those who wear contact lenses are at an increased risk of blinking less frequently or incorrectly. If your eyelids fail to close completely over the contact lens, the oils and tears won’t mix properly, and you can end up with dry or uncomfortable eyes, which can interfere with the function of your contacts.
Proper blinking will help to keep your contacts clean, just as it does for the surface of your eye. But don’t rely on blinking to keep you safe from eye infections. Make sure you properly clean your contact lenses or switch to a single use brand.
Proteins and other nutrients
Your eyes need healthy proteins and nutrients to function properly. Some of these make their way to the surface of your eye by blinking! If you starve your eyes of blinks, then you may be literally starving them of vital nutrients.
Using eye drops can help you compensate for dry eye, but nothing beats your body’s natural blinking process! If you struggle with dry or irritated eyes, try setting aside some time to practice blinking. It sounds silly, but like every other healthy habit, sometimes your body needs a little training.
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