Blinking is an automatic body reflex which can also be voluntary. Blinking cleans and moistens the eyes by spreading tears over the outer surface. It also protects the eyes from bright light, dryness, and objects coming towards it.
Excessive blinking refers to blinking more than one should. Young children and babies blink an average of 2 times per minute. The rate increases as the child gets older.
Causes & Risk Factors
Excessive blinking is caused by a variety of factors, which include:
- A cornea with problems that include ingrown eyelashes, dry eyes, corneal abrasion (scratch in the eye), a foreign object under the eyelid or in the eye, pink eye, or eye allergies
- Uncorrected refractive errors, including nearsightedness (myopia), astigmatism, and farsightedness ( hyperopia)
- Tics which may be caused by anxiety, stress, boredom, or fatigue. Blinking is a common physical tic
- Misaligned or crossed eyes
- Seizure disorders. It occurs in rare instances
- Neurological conditions such as Wilson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Tourette syndrome
Signs & Symptoms
Excessive blinking is easily identified by looking to see if the child blinks at a rate above normal. Most of the times, it is not terminal but if the following signs are spotted, consult a doctor immediately:
- Occasional rubbing of the eyes
- Squinting the eyes while reading at arm's length
- Red eyes
- Struggles opening the eyes when waking up
- Blinking more than 17 times per minute
- Panics and a short temper
Most of the time, diagnosis involves a simple observation of the child's eyes. The doctor examines the child's eyes to find out what is causing the excessive blinking. Using a slit lamp, the doctor will check the eye's front to see if anything affects the cornea.
Different tests are also used to examine eye movement, especially when the child's crossed eyes are not obvious. The doctor may also check the child's visual acuity to determine whether the child's eyes have a refractive error that requires correction using glasses.
Excessive blinking may go away on its own. In some circumstances, it may become severe and would therefore require treatment. Treatment options are based on the cause of the issue.
Where an eyelash grows towards the eye or a foreign object is lodged inside the eye, the suitable approach is to remove them. The doctor may recommend over-the-counter eye drops for allergies, pink eyes, or dry eyes. The child may be given a patch where there is a corneal abrasion. The patch helps in the healing process and also reduces blinking. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotic eye drops.
If the child has a refractive error, an ophthalmologist may prescribe corrective glasses, or s/he may conduct vision therapy. The glasses are also useful in strengthening and exercising a child's eye in strabismus, although sometimes surgery may be necessary to align the eyes.
Excessive blinking resulting from tics does not normally require treatment. The doctor may only help to identify the triggers of the tics. Tics go away after some months. In cases of serious neurological conditions, the doctor will evaluate the child's state to create a treatment plan for the child.
Prevention & Follow Up
It is possible to prevent excessive blinking if the causes are known. Some of the prevention measures include:
- Avoid keeping the child around things that irritate his/her eyes. When around irritants such as bright light and smoke, they should have protective eyewear to guard their eyes
- In case of an inflamed eye or infected eye, immediately take the child to a doctor
- Keep the child's eyes moist using lubricating eye drops
- Make sure the child's prescription glasses are the right strength. Visit an eye specialist every three months and change the glasses regularly
- Help the child engage in relaxing activities
- To prevent dry eyes, introduce foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids to the child. Make sure the child gets proper nutrients
- Keep the child's eyes clean
- Monitor the child's screen time. Ensure s/he is not spending too much time in front of a screen
The parent should never self-medicate his/her child or make a diagnosis on their own. Make sure to follow the doctor's directions correctly