I have often had patient shed a tear or two in the consulting chair either from a worry about their eye condition, having a bad day or perhaps lost a loved one. And with all the tears I have shed and been around lately as my father recently passed away, it got me thinking again about tears – how they are different and what they provide to us.
Tears are generally made of several layers. The lipid layer prevents evaporation. The aqueous layer adds to the optical clarity of our vision and the mucin layer provides additional lubrication. Blinking spreads our tears across our eyes.
There are 3 types of tears – reflex tears, basal tears and emotional tears. Each one serves a purpose and has different components designed to help us at a particular time. Even under a microscope these tears appear vastly different.
Reflex tears are protective. When something gets in our eyes or our body thinks something has gotten in our eyes, the body reacts with supplying reflex tears. These tears act to wash away irritants and fumes like from smoke and also onions. These tears have been shown to contain more natural antibiotics.
Basal tears are our normal tears and present all the time. They act to lubricate the eyes and provide nutrition to the cornea. They also act as a barrier so that things like dirt or sand can scratch the eye.
Emotional tears happen in response to a sadness, grief or fear. Laughing can also produce emotional tears. Studies have shown that this particular type of tear has elevated levels of stress hormones and proteins not found in our normal or basal tears. When emotional tearing occurs and the stress hormone is released, the person can feel a relief or release. Some theories on emotional tears link crying with social bonding.
Whether your tears are for protection, nutrition or a form of release, they are working to help you eyes and your whole body.
If you have a lack of tears this could affect the comfort of your eyes and your vision.
If so, book in for a comprehensive eye examination with our practice.
Phone 01635 528844.
Dr Valarie Jerome
Writing and sharing interesting topics affecting patients in their daily life, our practice news and the profession of optometry.