Eye Blinking Symptoms

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What are the signs of eye blinking problems?

Eye blinking symptoms include both an increased and decreased rate of blinking. Most commonly, increased eye blinking results from eye irritation caused by bright light, dust, smoke, or a foreign body in the eye. Allergies, infections, and dry eye may also increase the rate of blinking. Conditions of stress, anxiety or fatigue may lead to increased blinking. Facial tics, which are habitual repetitive twitches or movements of the face that occur most often in children, may include increased blinking. Congenital glaucoma is a rare cause of increased blinking.

Eye blinking symptoms may also be caused by conditions occurring in the nervous system. Blepharospasm, a condition characterized by rapid, uncontrolled blinking and even involuntary eye closure, is classified as a dystonia, in which the nervous system signals the muscles to contract inappropriately. These spasms may be accompanied by other quick facial changes such as eye rolling or grimacing. Increased blinking may also occur in several nervous system disorders, such as stroke, tardive (slow or belated onset) dyskinesia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Aicardi syndrome (rare organic brain disorder acquired in early childhood).

A severe decrease in blinking is seen chiefly in Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination. The decrease in blinking may be accompanied by facial paralysis and apparent staring or lack of facial expression (masked facies).

Eye blinking symptoms are not usually serious unless they occur in reaction to a strong chemical in your eye or to trauma or corneal abrasion. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if a caustic chemical has gotten in your eyes or if you have pain or vision changes. You should also seek immediate medical care for signs of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of the face or a limb, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, difficulty seeing, sudden vision changes, sudden difficulty with coordination, or sudden severe, unexplained headache.

Seek prompt medical care if eyelid twitching (blepharospasm) does not resolve within a week, if an eye blinking symptom closes your eye completely, if you experience facial paralysis, if you experience discharge and swelling in or around the eye, or if your upper eyelid droops.

What other symptoms might occur with eye blinking symptoms?

Eye blinking symptoms may accompany other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the eye may also involve other body systems.

Ophthalmologic symptoms that may occur along with eye blinking symptoms

Eye blinking symptoms may accompany other symptoms affecting the eye including:

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Discharge from the eye

  • Drooping eyelid (ptosis)

  • Dry eyes

  • Exposure of the ocular surface (lack of adequate wetting due to deficient blinking)

  • Eye pain

  • Eye muscle palsy (strabismus)

  • Increased sensitivity to light

  • Itchy eyes

  • Pain with blinking (usually severe)

  • Red, sore eyes (bloodshot eyes)

  • Squinting

  • Watery eyes

Neurologic symptoms that may occur along with eye blinking symptoms

Eye blinking symptoms may accompany symptoms related to the nervous system including:

  • Disruptive outbursts of speech or gesture

  • Facial paralysis

  • Facial tics, including grimacing and twitching of the mouth and nose

  • Facial weakness

  • Lack of facial expression (called flat affect), or staring

  • Restlessness

  • Seizures and tremors

  • Shuffling gait (shuffling walk)

  • Slowed muscle movements

  • Slurred speech

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, eye blinking symptoms may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition such as stroke that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Emergency care is also needed if eye blinking symptoms are caused by contact with a caustic chemical. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • Abnormal pupils (fixed, dilated, unresponsive to bright light)

  • Burning or pain after contact with toxic substance

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Facial paralysis

  • Facial weakness

  • Neck stiffness

  • Sudden change in vision, loss of vision, or eye pain

  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden severe, unexplained headache

What causes eye blinking symptoms?

Most commonly, increased eye blinking results from eye irritation caused by bright light, dust, smoke, or a foreign body in the eye. Allergies, infections, and dry eye may also increase the rate of blinking. Conditions of stress, anxiety or fatigue may lead to increased blinking. Increased blinking, especially in young children, always deserves careful evaluation. Oftentimes it may only be a type of facial tic. On the other hand, increased blinking and light sensitivity are familiar findings in congenital glaucoma.

Eye blinking symptoms may also be caused by conditions occurring in the nervous system.

A severe decrease in blinking is seen chiefly in Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination.

Ophthalmologic causes of eye blinking symptoms

Eye blinking symptoms may be caused by specific disorders or injuries to the eyeball or eye orbit itself including:

  • Allergies
  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)
  • Contact lens wear
  • Corneal abrasion or ulcer
  • Dry eyes
  • Exposure to irritants such as smoke, smog or dust
  • Foreign body in the eye
  • Ocular inflammation (uveitis, iritis)

Neurologic causes of eye blinking symptoms

Eye blinking symptoms can also be caused by neurologic disorders including:

  • Attention deficit disorder

  • Blepharospasm (involuntary spasm or twitching of the eyelid)

  • Dystonia

  • Facial tic

  • Parkinson’s disease (brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination)

  • Stroke

  • Tardive (slow or belated onset) dyskinesia

  • Tourette’s syndrome

Serious or life-threatening causes of eye blinking symptoms

In some cases, eye blinking symptoms may be an indication of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Aicardi syndrome (rare organic brain disorder acquired in early childhood)

  • Congenital glaucoma

  • Seizure disorder

  • Stroke

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eye blinking symptoms

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eye blinking symptoms including:

  • How long have you been experiencing eye blinking symptoms?

  • Are your blinking symptoms constant, or do they come and go?

  • Are there any conditions or situations that make your eye blinking symptoms worse?

  • Have your eyes been exposed to a toxic substance?

  • Do you have any other eye-related symptoms or problems?

  • Do you have any allergies?

  • Do you have any body-wide symptoms such as fever and chills or fatigue?

  • Have you had any recent numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face?

  • Are you having any difficulty with speech?

  • Do you have any muscle weakness or problems with coordination?

  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of eye blinking symptoms?

Because eye blinking symptoms can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Eyelid twitch. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000756.htm.
  2. Facial tics. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001410.htm.