On average, a person will blink in excess of 21,000 times per day. That’s every four seconds, or 900 blinks per hour. Blinking is essential to eye health and comfort, as each blink coats the eye ball with a thin layer of tears that moisturizes the eye, and helps to flush out any irritants or foreign particles such as dust. The inability to blink can cause infections, or damage to the eye and allow for drying of the cornea.
There are a few causes of lagophthalmos. Typically, a facial nerve malfunction will impair the eyelids ability to close. More recently, lagophthalmos has been cropping up in patients who have undergone a procedure called blepharoplasty, which is the removal of excess skin from the upper eyelid, often for cosmetic purposes. While this may help the patient look younger, if too much skin is removed, it can look unnatural and give the appearance of lagophthalmos.
The inability to shut one’s eyes during sleep is referred to as nocturnal lagophthalmos. Rather than anomalous nerve function, nocturnal lagophthalmos is often a result of fault with the eyelid. The severity of this condition ranges from mild to quite obvious.
Treatment for this condition ranges on the severity and type of lagophthalmos. Nocturnal lagophthalmos can be corrected with surgery to reposition the eyelids. Plugs may be used to block tear ducts to increase the amount of lubrication on the eyeball. It is also possible to weigh the eyelid down by surgically inserting a gold plate. Non-surgical remedies largely include the use of eye drops or ointments.
Waking up with dry, irritated eyes? That could be a sign of nocturnal lagophthalmos. Book an eye exam today to speak with an eye care professional and get a diagnosis.