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Question : My son has recently started blinking his eyes many times, especially when it is dark. Why is this happening?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a senior lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, he is chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. He is the former associate chief of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital Boston.

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December 19, 2011
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A:

Frequent eye blinking can be perfectly normal, such as when someone gets something in their eyes. It sounds like there is not an obvious reason for your son’s eye blinking. It is something new for him. Plus, it is happening too often. When this is the case, the eye blinking may be called a tic.

Talk with your son’s pediatrician to see if she thinks his eye blinking is a tic. The doctor will be able to diagnose a tic by asking a bunch of questions about his eye blinking. The doctor also can check his eyes and his vision.

Tics are sudden, repetitive movements or sounds. They happen on their own. Tics are hard to control. They can happen a lot throughout the day or only once in a while.

Tics usually involve the face and neck. Some of the most common forms are:

  • Eye blinking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Facial grimacing
  • Neck twisting
  • Throat clearing
  • Sniffing
  • Dry coughs

Tics happen in about 1 of every 5 school-age children. We don’t know what causes them. They often show up after physical or social stress. You are more likely to see or hear them more when a child is nervous or tired.

A tic usually goes away on its own within several months. It usually does not require treatment. A doctor may prescribe medicine when the tic is severe enough to interfere with daily life.

If your son’s eye blinking is a tic, do these things to help him deal with it.

  • Do not scold him about it.
  • Discuss anything that may be causing stress or worrying him.
  • Look for ways to lower any stress he may be feeling.
  • Spend extra time with him.
  • Give him positive attention.
  • Reassure him that there is nothing wrong with him.

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