Why We Blink & Why Our Eyes Water When We Focus
Brain & CognitionHow Humans Work

Why We Blink & Why Our Eyes Water When We Focus

Learn about the vital roles of blinking and tears in maintaining eye health, strategies to prevent dry eyes during focused activities, and essential vitamins for optimal eye nutrition.

Published February 19, 2024

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the editor(s), author(s) nor publisher(s) take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Ever wondered why we blink, or why our eyes tend to water when we're staring at a computer screen?

It turns out, these seemingly simple actions play a crucial role in maintaining the health and function of our eyes.

Let's delve into the science behind blinking, the protective role of tears, and how proper nutrition can support our eye health.

The Importance of Blinking

Blinking is more than just a reflex; it's a necessary function that helps to keep our eyes healthy and properly lubricated.

With every blink, our eyelids distribute a fresh layer of tears across the surface of our eyes.

This action prevents dryness and helps to clear away small irritants, such as dust and dirt, that could impair our vision.

When we produce excess tears, they drain through the tear ducts into our nasal passages, which explains why we get a runny nose when we cry.

Reduced Blinking During Focus

It's a common experience to blink less when we're deeply focused on activities like reading, watching a show, playing a game, or working on a project.

In fact, while concentrating, we may blink as few as three times per minute, significantly less than the usual rate needed for optimal eye health. This reduction in blinking can lead to problems such as dry eye and eye strain.†

Why Do Our Eyes Water When Focusing?

One theory suggests that light exposure can cause eye watering.

Since water refracts light, dispersing it in different directions, tears might be produced to protect the eyes by reducing the concentration of light hitting them directly. This protective mechanism is particularly useful in environments with artificial lighting, such as when working on a computer.

Strategies to Prevent Dry Eyes

For those who experience eye discomfort from infrequent blinking, especially during intense concentration, making a conscious effort to blink more frequently can offer relief.†

Incorporating blinking exercises into your routine can help keep your eyes lubricated.

For example, closing your eyes, pausing for a moment, squeezing your eyelids, and then opening your eyes again is a simple exercise to refresh your eyes.

Additionally, performing 10-20 seconds of rapid blinking every hour during focused activities can also be beneficial.†

Supporting Eye Health Through Nutrition

Alongside proper blinking habits, nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining eye health.

Certain vitamins and minerals are especially important for keeping our eyes in good condition:

  • Vitamin A: Essential for seeing a full spectrum of light and preventing dry eyes.†

  • Vitamin C: Protects the eyes from UV damage.†

  • Vitamin E: Protects the retinas from free radicals and supports healthy eye cells.†

  • Zinc: Works with Vitamin A to produce melanin, which protects the eyes, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration.†

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These carotenoids protect the eyes from free radicals and support retinal health.†

Incorporating foods rich in these nutrients into your diet can help safeguard your vision and ensure your eyes remain healthy and well-functioning.


Understanding the role of blinking and tears in eye health, alongside the importance of nutrition, can help us take better care of our vision.

By adopting simple habits like regular blinking exercises and consuming a nutrient-rich diet, we can support our eye health and prevent common issues associated with eye strain and dryness.†

Remember, taking care of your eyes is an integral part of maintaining overall health and well-being.