What Are Tears Made Of?

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tear rolling down woman's cheek

Tears play a key role in the health of the eye. Tears are made of three layers, which is also what covers the cornea. Those layers are:

  1. Mucus: This is the innermost tear film layer produced by the conjunctiva—the eye’s outer membrane. It keeps your eyes moist by distributing the layer of water over the eye’s surface.
  2. Water: Your eye’s lacrimal gland produces this middle tear film layer, which is the bulk portion of each tear. This layer is an eye-cleaning agent that removes particles from the eye.
  3. Lipid (oil): The meibomian glands produce this outermost tear film layer. The oil creates a smooth surface on tears and acts as a protective barrier that prevents the water layer of tears from drying out.

Types of Tears

Did you know there are three different types of tears? Take a look below at the three types of tears your eyes produce.

Basal Tears

Containing three separate layers, basal tears are complex. The combined layers coat the eye and supply nutrients to its outer structures. 

Basal tears are what appear when dust, follicles, or debris get in your eyes. They protect the eye from drying out and the cornea from damage. Your eyes constantly shed basal tears, even when you don’t notice. 

Emotional Tears

Your eyes produce emotional tears when you’re overcome with emotion. Scientists have found traces of stress chemicals in emotional tears, which could mean crying is a form of stress relief. 

Other studies suggest that crying stimulates the body’s production of endorphins—the feel-good chemical produced in the brain. Only humans are known to produce emotional tears.

Reflex Tears

The eye’s lacrimal gland produces reflex tears, which are composed primarily of water. The body makes these tears in response to an external stimulus. 

For example, if a bug flies into your eye, it will produce a reflex tearing to flush it out.

Where Are Tears Produced?

Tears are produced in the lacrimal gland. This tear gland comprises the middle layer of the tear film. Healthy tear production prevents your eyes from drying out and becoming inflamed, protecting your corneas from damage.

Are your eyes bothering you? Schedule an appointment and we’ll give you the help you need.

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What Causes Watery Eyes?

Watery eyes—formally known as epiphora—occur when you have a blocked tear duct and tears have nowhere to escape but outside your eyes. When eyes start tearing up like this, it’s typically caused by an irritated cornea or conjunctiva.

Watery Eye Symptoms

Here are the top symptoms of watery eyes:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Excess tear production
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Runny nose
  • Blurry/Impaired vision
  • Allergies
  • Redness

Watery Eyes Treatment 

How to stop watery eyes? When you visit Cleveland Eye Clinic for treatment, we’ll do one or more of the following things to treat the condition:

  • Prescribe medication
  • Remove any foreign objects from your eyes
  • Unblock your tear ducts
  • Perform eyelid repair

What Causes Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes result from either insufficient or low-quality tear production. These causes include inflamed ocular glands, medications, and hormonal changes.

Dry Eyes Symptoms

Dry eye symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Scratchiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Burning sensation
  • Sandy or gritty sensation

When to Get Them Checked

Get your eyes checked if you’re experiencing intermittent fuzziness or any type of discomfort that over-the-counter eye drops don’t relieve.

Take Our Dry Eye Self-Test

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If you want to consult an eye doctor about tear production problems, schedule an appointment at the Cleveland Eye Clinic office closest to you. Our skilled eye doctors are ready to assist you with the best eye health services available for your condition.

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