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Health

Why Do We Cry? (The Role of Tears)

You suddenly get an overwhelming feeling of emotion, your lip starts to quiver, then your eyes start to well up and, before you know it, you’re crying!

Although some people would rather not admit it, everyone cries or has cried at some point in their lives. There is no shame in shedding tears! Crying can be triggered by any number of emotions like anger, pain, sadness and happiness but, for some, who can let go of their guard and tap into their deep emotions, will weep in response to beauty.

Now, regardless on whether you cry while watching a TV commercial or not, there are biological reasons why your eyes create tears. The tears are either a release from a build-up of feelings or a defence mechanism to protect your eyes. Should a foreign object get lodged in your eyes or cold winds blow into them, your tear glands are wired to produce tears in order to moisturize your eyes to reduce pain and discomfort. These peanut-shell-shaped tear glands, or lacrimal (say: LAH-krum-ul) glands, found way up under the upper eyelids, create and secrete the moisture your eyes need.

Not only are humans the only animals that cry tears, but also humans produce three types of tears:
-Basal tears are the constant secretion the glands produce that helps keep the eyes moist. These antibacterial tears are released every time you blink. This moisture is made of water, oil and mucus and it helps maintain healthy vision.
-Reflex tears are produced to protect your eyes against irritants like wind, smoke or onions.
-Emotional tears are a response to emotions.

Have you ever cried your heart out and your nose started to run? Well, this is due the tear ducts, or lacrimal ducts, overflowing because the tears cannot be drained quickly enough, so the tears run down your face and also exit through your nose. The role of the tear ducts is to drain out the eyes when they fill up with tears. They are two tiny tubes in each eye that run between your eyes and nose. You may be able to see the holes if you gently pull down on your lower eyelid a little.

We cannot stress the importance of an eye exam for vision health enough, but another good reason to visit your eye doctor yearly, is to have your tear ducts checked. Tear ducts can become blocked! Aging, infections, inflammation or injury may be the cause of the blockage that can lead to excessive tearing, eye infection or inflammation. If you are experiencing unusual and excessive tearing, visit your eye doctor. You don’t want to prevent the relief of a good cry!

Apart from a feeling of relief, crying does have other health benefits:
-It can improve your mood. Sometimes after a good cry, you feel better as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
-It can fight bacteria in your eyes. Tears contain a fluid called lysozyme, which has been found to have antimicrobial properties.
-It can also improve vision. Tears, which are released every time a person blinks, help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucous membranes from drying out. If the membrane dries out, vision can become blurry.

Crying is beneficial for your eyes and your health so don’t hold back those tears, go ahead and cry! We only hope that they are tears of joy!

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