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Blink Rate, Incomplete Blinks and Computer Vision Syndrome

Portello, Joan K.*; Rosenfield, Mark; Chu, Christina A.

Optometry and Vision Science: May 2013 - Volume 90 - Issue 5 - p 482–487
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e31828f09a7

Purpose Computer vision syndrome (CVS), a highly prevalent condition, is frequently associated with dry eye disorders. Furthermore, a reduced blink rate has been observed during computer use. The present study examined whether post task ocular and visual symptoms are associated with either a decreased blink rate or a higher prevalence of incomplete blinks. An additional trial tested whether increasing the blink rate would reduce CVS symptoms.

Methods Subjects (N = 21) were required to perform a continuous 15-minute reading task on a desktop computer at a viewing distance of 50 cm. Subjects were videotaped during the task to determine their blink rate and amplitude. Immediately after the task, subjects completed a questionnaire regarding ocular symptoms experienced during the trial. In a second session, the blink rate was increased by means of an audible tone that sounded every 4 seconds, with subjects being instructed to blink on hearing the tone.

Results The mean blink rate during the task without the audible tone was 11.6 blinks per minute (SD, 7.84). The percentage of blinks deemed incomplete for each subject ranged from 0.9 to 56.5%, with a mean of 16.1% (SD, 15.7). A significant positive correlation was observed between the total symptom score and the percentage of incomplete blinks during the task (p = 0.002). Furthermore, a significant negative correlation was noted between the blink score and symptoms (p = 0.035). Increasing the mean blink rate to 23.5 blinks per minute by means of the audible tone did not produce a significant change in the symptom score.

Conclusions Whereas CVS symptoms are associated with a reduced blink rate, the completeness of the blink may be equally significant. Because instructing a patient to increase his or her blink rate may be ineffective or impractical, actions to achieve complete corneal coverage during blinking may be more helpful in alleviating symptoms during computer operation.


MCOptom, PhD, FAAO


SUNY College of Optometry, New York, New York.

Mark Rosenfield SUNY College of Optometry 33 West 42nd St New York, NY 10036 e-mail:

© 2013 American Academy of Optometry