The need to cry isn’t just a response to a sad, emotional event. Yes, a sad experience can bring on the waterworks, as does an episode where you laugh so hard that it brings tears to your eyes. But tearing up is more a physical response as an emotional one. At the most basic level, tears are the essential lubricant for your eyes. As with the other tissues in your body, eyes are composed of cells which need to be wet. Cells without moisture die. Evolution has blessed us with the lacrimal gland, which produces the tears which lubricate our eyes.
Unknown to many outside of optometrist in Victoria BC, there are actually three types of tears, and their composition varies with type. While we tend to think of tear as just some watery substance, tears can contain oils, salt, and hormones. These are the types of tears you’ll find covering your eyes:
- Basal tears – these are the omnipresent tears that cover your eyes. As we’ve said, your eyes need a constant bath to prevent them from drying out. Basal tears are the moisturizer that work to keep your eyes wet. The glands the produce these tears produce from 5-10 ounces of basal tears daily. The excess drains through the nasal cavity.
- Reflex tears – reflex tears are tears that are produced by the nervous system in reaction to irritants. When sensory nerves in your cornea detect these irritants (such as the sting of onions, a harsh wind, or a particle of dust entering your eye), a signal is sent to brains stem, which triggers the sending of hormones to the glands which produce tears. That wash of tears helps the eye rid itself of irritants.
- Emotional tears – these tears are the result of elevated stress that affects the area of the brain related to sadness. This in turn triggers the endocrine system, which sends out the hormones which start the production of tears in the ocular area. It is theorized that having a good cry helps relieve the emotional and physical stress of an impassioned even, and some scientists reportedly agree.
Taken in sum, all these types of tears give you the reasons on why we need to cry. While basal and reflex tears are produced as a lubricant and defense response, emotional tears result from stressful triggers. Tearing up, then, is a healthy and relieving act after all.
Contact Island Eyecare Optometrists in Victoria for more information.