Many people don’t blink often enough – especially when they’re sitting in front of a computer! If there are insufficient blinks then there is an insufficient amount of oil excreted from the glands along the lid margin and subsequently not enough oil in the tears. The tears that are there then either evaporate away or run out of the eyes in streams of watery tears. There is a theory that by not stimulating the glands to produce oils on a regular basis that the glands then begin to atrophy so produce even less oil which makes matters even worse.
Even when people do blink it can be an incomplete blink so that the lids don’t fully contact. This then fails to “zip up” the oily film on the surface of the tears which can lead to exposure keratitis where the area of the cornea in that “unzipped” area dries out and becomes damaged.
So training the eyes to blink properly again can both stimulate more oil to be produced as well as spreading the oil that is there more effectively across the surface of the eye.
I think that everyone should be doing blinking exercises even from a young age. If I was a teacher I would be getting my students to stop every hour to do one minute of blinking exercises. I’d be interested to see if that stopped the growing number of young people we see now suffering from dry eyes. I would also like to see people who have had eye procedures such as LASIK or cataract surgery being given blinking exercises to do once the healing process is complete. There is sub-group of dry eye suffers who develop their condition post-procedure/surgery. There is no doubt that their normal blinking pattern is disturbed and I think that for some it never recovers. It would be interesting to see if the chance of them developing those dry eye problems is reduced by doing blinking exercises.
Blinking exercises should be done every hour for a minute. Some people prefer to do 30 seconds of exercises every 30 minutes. It’s quite handy if you can set up a reminder system on your phone. If you can’t be that disciplined that at least aim to do the exercises several times a day e.g. you could do them at breakfast, lunch, dinner and before you go to bed. Regularly is good but some is better than none.
There are a myriad of different exercises and they all work pretty well. However, I know one practitioner who advises squeezing your eyes so tightly as if you’re trying to crack a nut – don’t do that!
The exercise I recommend is;
Gently close your eyes (count 1-2), squeeze your lids firmly together (count 1-2), open your eyes (count 1 2 3 4). Repeat for about a minute.
If you have an iPhone or iPad then there is a free app you can download which has been developed by an American Optometrist Dr Donald Korb. Just search for Donald Korb in the app store and you’ll find his blink training.