We often don’t think about tears until we cry.
And when we cry, the last thing we usually want to think about is why we have tears and how they work.
The salty solution is important because it protects, moisturizes, and cleans our eyes.
In this post, we’ll take a look at what types of tears you have, how your body creates and clears tears, and how to identify proper tear production.
How Your Body Makes Tears
Tears are produced in the lacrimal gland, located above the eye under your outer upper eyelid. It constantly secretes the fluid known as tears.
Once tears work their way through your eye, they leave in generally one of two ways. They either flow down your cheek, or they flow through your tear ducts. Tear ducts are located at the bottom of each eye and carry excess fluid into the nose. This process works similar to how a storm drain clears away rainwater.
You Have Three Types Of Tears
Did you know that the body produces three different types of tears? Each one has a different function.
- Basal tears are constantly in your eyes. In fact, each time you blink, tear fluid is wiped across the surface of your eye. These tears help moisturize and protect your cornea, acting as a shield between the eye and your surrounding environment.
- Reflex tears occur when your eyes must clear irritants. Irritants include smoke, a stray eyelid, and even fumes from an onion. More reflex tears are released than basal tears, and they may contain more antibodies to fight bacteria.
- Emotional tears are what we typically think about when we think about tears. These are released when we are triggered by something sad, joyous, or scary. Compared to other types, these tears may have additional proteins and hormones.
Common Issues Related To Tears
There are a number of issues related to the overproduction, underproduction, or blockage of tears. We’ll take a look at two common issues in this post.
Dry eye occurs when your eyes aren’t lubricated enough, or if the tears you produce are of poor quality.
You may experience dry eye if you are on an airplane, in a windy environment, or staring a computer screen for several hours at a time.
Symptoms of dry eye may include a stinging or burning of the eyes.
Treatments for dry eye include altering your lifestyle or using eyedrops on a regular basis.
Watery eyes are the opposite of dry eye, when your eyes produce excessive tears.
In infants, watery eyes are typically caused by blocked tear ducts. Meanwhile, older adults may experience watery eyes because the aging skin of the eyelid droops away from the eyeball, allowing tears to accumulate and flow out.
Other causes of watery eyes include allergies, inflammation, and conjunctivitis.
Watery eyes can be treated with chemotherapy, epinephrine, or eyedrops.
If you experience any issues associated with tears, please contact your eye doctor.