Excessive Blinking in Children

What is excessive blinking?

Blinking is a normal reflex that protects your eyes from dryness, bright light and objects coming toward it. Blinking also helps adjust the tear film on your eye that nourishes and cleanses the surface of the eye. Newborns usually blink on a rate of 2 times per minute. This increases to 14-17 times per minute in adolescence and remains at this rate throughout life. Blinking can increase in response to pain, bright light, changes in tears, changes in temperature and humidity.

Excessive blinking seems more frequent than the typical rate of blinking. It can involve one or both eyes. It can be more forceful than normal. It may be associated with other movements or tics of the face, head or neck. 


What causes excessive blinking?

Excessive blinking can be caused by the problems with the eyelids or front surface of the eye, habit, need for glasses, eye misalignments, or stress. It is very rare for it to be caused by an underlying neurological disorder. The most common causes are a tic disorder or a problem with the surface of the eye such as dry eye or allergies. Sometimes, no specific cause can be found.


How is excessive blinking evaluated?

An ophthalmologist will talk to the patient about their symptoms and perform a thorough eye exam. The doctor may ask when the blinking is more common or becomes annoying and if there are factors that make it worse or better. If there is a problem such as an ingrown eyelash, scratch on the front surface of the eye, pink eye, foreign body in the eye, or eye dryness, this can easily be diagnosed and treated.  Any strabismus or eye misalignment that could cause excessive blinking can also be addressed.


What is the treatment for excessive blinking?

The treatment for excessive blinking depends on what is causing the issue. Eye drops or ointment is used to treat certain conditions. Glasses may be prescribed if the excessive blinking is caused by blurry vision. If a strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) is diagnosed, glasses, patching or even surgery may be needed.