Why do we blink?

In my first year of optometry school, as part of the practical portion of our studies, we used to do vision screenings on kids in elementary schools around Boston. So picture me, the tall optometric freshman, kneeling down to examine the eyes of this adorable little 6 year old girl when she steps back and asks out loud "Harbir, why do we blink?". The whole classroom stopped and looked up at me...

I paused for a second, gathered as much information as I could from my 3 months of eye-related education, and began to answer. Well, cute little blonde-haired girl whose name I don't remember, there are 3 main reasons for blinking:

Number 1 is protection. Our eyelids and eyelashes provide a protective barrier against foreign objects such as dust, rocks, bits of metal, fruit flies, etc...

The second reason is lubrication. Every time we blink, our eyelids squeeze out small amounts of oil, water, and mucus to line the surface of the eye. Studies have shown that when we are engaged in activities that require more attention, we tend to blink less. That is why spending a lot of time on the computer can lead to dry eyes. So as soon as you're done reading this blog, get off the computer! Then come back and share it with all your friends :)

And last, but not least, the third reason for blinking is irrigation or removal of tears and waste. Our eyelids act similar to squeegees, the wonderful onomatopoeically named tool that helps smoothly remove water from car windows and such. Each time we blink, the lids pull tight and sweep tears and debris off the surface of the eye and towards the drainage duct which is located at the inner corner of the eye.

And that's why we blink.

Stye in my eye

What is a Stye?

A stye is basically a blocked gland in the eyelid which becomes infected. Kind of like getting a pimple on the eyelid. Bacteria, skin cells, and oil can cause the blockage.

The medical term for a stye is Hordeolum. They tend to be painful and they can be either internal or external.

How are styes treated?

Simple therapy involves applying heat the affected area to express the gland and release the blocked material.

In more difficult cases, doctors may prescribe ointment and/or oral meds.

And in the some cases, minor surgery may be require to remove the stye.

How do you prevent styes?

Lid hygeine. Simple things such as warm compresses and gentle lid scrubs can help keep the eyelids clean and healthy.

To do this you simply warm up a cloth or towel with warm water and apply the heat to closed eyelids for 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes use the warm towel to gently massage your eyelids and then lightly scrub at the eyelid margin to wipe away any debris.

Doing this on a daily basis will help prevent blockage and inflammation of the eyelid glands.

For patient who have Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation), it is important to do these warm compresses twice daily.

Why Do My Eyes Twitch?

There are multiple known factors that can contribute, including:

- stress

- lack of sleep or change in sleeping pattern

- low calcium levels or other electrolyte imbalances

- fatigue

- dry eyes

- caffeine

- alcohol

The medical term for eyelid twitching is Myokemia


Treatment for eyelid twitching usually involves resolving the above factors. In some rare cases, a botox injection is needed to relax the small muscles around the eye that are over-active.