This week’s blog on excessive blinking in children has been contributed by Dr Darakhshanda Khurram, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist.
Blinking is a normal protective reflex of the eye. It helps lubricate the front of the eyeballs, as well as shields the eyes from bright light, dust and other debris.
The normal blinking rate in a newborn is as low as twice a minute and it increases to 14-17 times per minute in teenagers. This rate will normally increase if the eyes are exposed to bright light, temperature variation and humidity. Eyestrain caused by reading in poor light, lack of sleep or too much screen time – especially in children – can lead to excessive blinking.
Other causes of excessive blinking include inflammation of the eyelids, an irregular front surface of the eye, ocular allergy, habitual tics, refractive errors (the need to wear glasses), divergent squint or turning out of the eye. A rare cause of excessive blinking can be an undiagnosed neurological disorder.
Parents describe their concerns about excessive blinking in a variety of ways, such as an increased frequency of blinking, shutting eyes tightly, awkward rolling and widening of the eyes, and too much rubbing of the eyes.
The management of excessive blinking includes treating the underlying cause. A paediatric ophthalmologist should carry out a thorough eye examination to rule out the major concern: visual problems. The treatment could be as simple as getting glasses for any significant refractive error to reduce the visual stress or using topical lubricant eye drops regularly for dry eyes and ocular allergy.
In rare cases, eye twitching can be a sign of certain brain and nervous system disorders, especially if it is accompanied by other signs and symptoms like multiple tics or auditory (vocal) tics. In such cases, an appointment with a paediatric neurologist is recommended.
Healthy visual habits can prevent excessive blinking in children:
- Wear sunglasses or a wide brim hat outdoors.
- Avoid reading in poor light.
- Take frequent breaks from digital screens.
- Wash your hands before you touch your eyes.
- Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated.