Science And Art Of Blinking

Blink … to improve eye comfort

Blinking cleans the ocular surface of debris and flushes fresh tears over the ocular surface. Each blink brings nutrients to the eye surface structures keeping them healthy. The flow of tears is responsible for wetting the lower third of the cornea. This is very important in KC, since this area is generally below the bulge of the cone and in many cases irritated by wobbly RGP lenses.

The Science And Art Of Blinking

by Bezalel Schendowich, O.D.

It is no secret – man was meant to blink! Not only was he meant to blink, he was meant to blink in a particular way and at a particular frequency that ensures the renewal and revitalization of the front surface of the cornea, the epithelium, and the conjunctiva.

Blinking cleans the ocular surface of debris (cellular, dried tears, and the junk that blows in with the wind) and flushes fresh tears over the ocular surface. This brings nutrients and other substances to the surface structures keeping them healthy. It helps prevent infection and clears and brightens the image received by our retina. It wets the outer eye and in the case of the contact lens wearer, replenishes the tear layer upon which the contact lens floats.

Correct blinking is an art – based on science. The science of blinking is similar to that of radio broadcasting. In radio we can modulate or vary the amplitude (AM) and the frequency (FM). In blinking the optimum amplitude is set at “full” or completely close the eyelids on each blink. The “normal” frequency (even without contacts) has been observed to be 7-10 bpm (blinks per minute). Other species blink faster or slower (rabbits were clocked as the least frequent, about 1 blink per seven minutes).

Normally, a blink brings tears from the tear gland, which is located above the eyeball and under the brow bone, and sweeps them across the eye surface. The importance of a “full” blink was shown in an important study, conducted by Dr. Bill Gleason some years ago, in which blinking was videotaped. The flow of tears, responsible for wetting the lower third of the cornea (very important in KC, since this area is generally below the bulge of the cone and in many cases irritated by wobbly RGP’s), was actually “recycled” from tears collected at the junction of the lower lid and the eye. These tears were collected by the upper lid on its upward swoop after a full blink. Then and only then was the inferior cornea washed with tears.

I believe that there are very few aggravations in a keratoconic’s life more annoying than trying to complete a blink over a firm contact lens surface, which bangs mercilessly against the lower lid, some 5880 times in a 14 hour functioning day (7x60x14). However, the benefits of naturally rewetting the ocular surface are enormous. They are: fewer artificial substances in your eyes; less bottles of solutions to haul around; eyes that are less prone to redness and itching; less chance for infection because debris is frequently removed from the ocular surface; and cleaner contact lenses for crisper vision.

The only sure way to build a new habit, like proper blinking is by blinking. You can BLINK. Try these blinking exercises:

  • Set aside five – one minute sessions a day for two weeks spread throughout the day.
  • Into each of the minutes, cram fifty full blinks – look into each of the five forward directions (up, down, left, right, straight) blink ten times into each direction (5×10) it takes far less than fifty seconds; much less than a minute. These blinks are not tight lid-squeezes, but closures. It is best to do them with RGP’s in place – to get the feel of it.

It is important to be sure that your blink is complete and therefore effective. You can’t see that your eyes are fully closed when they are. So, then how can you, the newly reformed blinker, know you are doing it correctly? Here’s how: Gently rest your forefinger sideways under your eye just above the cheek bone (your finger pointing towards your nose). As you blink, the eyelashes on the upper eyelid will gently (almost like a feather touch) brush the finger when your eye is completely closed.

You may not like it at first … who likes anything that’s good for them? It irritates and rubs, but this will pass as good blinking-habits begin to settle in and you begin to feel the difference.

Try it … it works!

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