Facts About Tears: Tears are Important for Healthy Eyes
Tears are more than just an outlet for our emotions. They play an important role in protecting and preserving the health of our eyes.
Jun 21, 2018
Tears. We shed them in moments of sadness and even in moments of great joy. But tears do more than just telegraph our emotional state. They perform a very important function in protecting and preserving the health of our eyes. In fact, emotional tears are just one of three types of tears our eyes produce.1
Types of Tears
Basal Tears Basal tears provide front line protection for your eyes. They are present all the time to lubricate, sustain and protect your cornea. These tears act as a constant barrier between your eyes and the outside world, shielding them from dirt and debris.
Reflex Tears Reflex tears come to the rescue when your eyes need to flush away harmful irritants, foreign materials or onion fumes. They are released in larger amounts than basal tears and may contain more antibodies to help fight bacteria.
Emotional tears Emotional tears are generated in response to feelings of fear, sadness and even happiness. Some scientists theorize that emotional tears contain additional hormones and proteins not found in basal or reflex tears. Do you ever feel better after you cry? Crying has been shown to cause the release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer.2
Where Tears Come From...and Where They Go
Tears are produced by lacrimal glands that are located above each eye. When we blink, tears bathe the surface of the eye. Our eyes produce a whopping 15-30 gallons of tears each year!3 So where do they all go?
Tears drain into puncta, tiny holes in the corners of the upper and lower eyelids, then travel through small canals in the lids and down a duct before draining into the nose where they either evaporate or are reabsorbed.4
Peeling Back the Layers of Tears
Like an onion that gets the tears flowing when you’re preparing dinner, tears also have layers – three to be exact. The outermost is an oily layer that keeps the surface of the tear smooth for the eye to see through and prevents the other layers from evaporating. The middle, watery layer is the thickest. Its job is to keep the eye hydrated, repel bacteria and protect the cornea. The inner, mucus layer works to keep the whole tear attached to the eye.5
It’s clear to see, while we may take them for granted or even find them a nuisance at times, tears play an important role in keeping our eyes healthy.