Why Do We Blink? Understanding The Function And Importance Of Blinking For Eye Health

selective focus of blue-eyed person

Our eyes blink involuntarily multiple times a minute, playing a crucial role in maintaining the health and functionality of our eyes. Blinking helps to spread tears evenly across the surface of the eye, keeping it moist and preventing dryness. This constant lubrication also helps to protect the eye from irritants such as dust and debris.

Protection and Lubrication

Tear Composition and Eye Health: Each blink releases a complex mixture of tears, which are not merely water but a blend of oils, water, mucus, antibodies, and special proteins. This composition is crucial for not only moisturizing the eye but also providing essential nutrients to the corneal cells. The oily layer helps prevent the evaporation of the water layer beneath, ensuring that the eye remains well-lubricated throughout the day.

Barrier Against Infections: The tear fluid spread during blinking has antimicrobial properties, thanks to the presence of lysozyme and other antibacterial enzymes. These substances actively combat pathogens that may come in contact with the eye, thus acting as a first line of defense against infections.

Stimulus Response

Reflex Blinking and Eye Protection: Beyond voluntary blinking, our eyes exhibit reflex blinking when exposed to sudden intense stimuli. This rapid response is orchestrated by the brain’s reflex centers, which instantaneously send signals to close the eyelids whenever potential threats are detected, significantly minimizing the risk of injury.

Adaptation to Environmental Conditions: Blinking rates can adjust based on environmental factors such as wind, humidity, and the presence of irritants. In harsh conditions, the blink rate increases to provide extra protection and lubrication, showcasing the eye’s ability to adapt to varying circumstances for optimal functioning.

Preventing Eye Strain

Blink Rate and Screen Use: Studies have shown that when we are focused on screens, our blink rate significantly decreases. This reduction in blinking leads to increased tear film evaporation and decreased tear film renewal, contributing to the symptoms of digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome.

Interventions and Eye Exercises: Besides the 20-20-20 rule, eye care professionals often recommend specific eye exercises that encourage regular blinking. These exercises can include conscious blinking breaks, where individuals close their eyes for a few seconds to allow for thorough tear spreading and eye relaxation.

Impact on Visual Acuity: Regular blinking plays a pivotal role in maintaining clear vision. Each blink helps to clear away any debris or films that can form on the surface of the eye, ensuring that the optical surface is smooth and clear for optimal light refraction and vision.


Overall, blinking is a vital and often overlooked aspect of eye health. By understanding the function and importance of blinking, we can appreciate its role in maintaining clear vision, protecting the eyes from harm, and ensuring optimal eye health. Incorporating habits such as consciously blinking more often, taking breaks from screen time, and maintaining good eye hygiene can contribute to healthier eyes in the long run. Simple practices like consciously blinking a few extra times throughout the day can go a long way in keeping our eyes healthy and comfortable.

Angie Mahecha

An fitness addict passionate about all things nature and animals, Angie often volunteers her time to NGOs and governmental organizations alike working with animals in general and endangered species in particular. She covers stories on wildlife and the environment for the Scientific Origin.