Anusuya D, B. Optom

Aravind Fellowship in Optometry, Aravind Eye Care System, Chennai, India


Tears are the salty liquid that comes from the eye when it is hurt, or unhappiness or pain triggered by strong emotions. The fact is each year you make 15 to 30 gallons of tears. The primary purpose of tears is to clean and lubricate the eyes, secreted from the top eyelid known as lacrimal gland. It contains water, lipids, glucose, sodium etc. (1)

Each tear has three layers as depicted below:

Figure 1: Different types of tear layers

[Image courtesy Helms, D. J. (2018, December 6). What Are Tears Made Of? CarlinVision.]

Different types of tears: (1)

Basal Tears Reflex Tears/ Irritant tears Emotional/ psychic tears
A basic functional tear causes irritation to the eye by foreign particles or irritant substances crying or weeping associated with all emotions
Lubricate the cornea & clears the dust occurs with bright light and hot or peppery stimuli to the tongue Happy tears occurs with during times of intense humour and laughter
Fight against bacterial infection Released in larger amounts than basal tears. To get rid of stress

Benefits of crying (2)

  • i) Tears give us the gift of sight:-

The most basic function of tears is to help us see. It prevents dehydration of our mucous membranes and lubricates the eyeballs and eyelids. Dry eye would set in, making daily life extremely uncomfortable without tear production.

  • ii) Tears destroy bacteria:-

Tears are their own antibacterial defence. It helps us fight off germs every day. A fluid called lysozyme aids in the destruction of certain bacteria. Without it, eye infections would soon cause most victims to go blind. The liquid layer coating the eyes, keeps them safe

  • iii) Crying eliminates toxins:-

Emotional tears contain more hormones than basal or reflex tears. Researchers have found that crying removes toxic substances and chemicals (such as the stress hormone, Cortisol) that builds up in the body during emotional stress.

Disease associated with crying (3-7)  

1. Dry eye

Our tear ducts sometimes don’t produce enough quantity and/or quality tears to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated, which is known as “dry eye” which commonly affects millions of adults. The risk of dry eye increases with advancing age. A higher prevalence of dry eye is more in women.

Figure 1: Normal eye vs Dry eye

(Image courtesy :

2. Epiphora

There are tiny openings in the inner corner of our eyelids. These openings can swell and get blocked when we get a cold which causes our tears to overflow onto our face. Ongoing tear spill is produced by basal tear mix, which gets oily in our tear glands.

Figure 2: Image depicting epiphora

Image courtesy:

3. Pathological tearing

The neurological condition, which brings uncontrollable tears to the surface of our eyes, can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other brain diseases.

4. Baby colic

Without any underlying medical disorder or cause, there will be excessive crying in infants.

5.Bell’s palsy

People with Bell’s palsy shed tears while eating, because of faulty regeneration of the facial nerve.


Sometimes people feel better after a good cry. Next time when you feel like crying,  let nature do its job, which is healthy. But if your eyes are irritated, itchy, red, or swollen, or if you’re constantly crying without any noticeable reason, you should seek help from an eye care professional. (7)



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    2. Fire, C. (2021, August 10). Crying is good for your eyes. Looking Glass Optical. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
    3. Independent Digital News and Media. (2022, September 1). Why do we cry? the scientific reasons behind sobbing. The Independent. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
    4. Leo Newhouse, L. I. C. S. W. (2021, March 1). Is crying good for you? Harvard Health. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
    5. Team, F. H. (2022, November 18). Why do we cry? the truth behind your tears. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
    6. Parker, S. (2020, November 28). Why does my baby cry so much? 123 Baby Box. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
    7. Why does my baby cry so much? Mount Sinai Today. (2022, June 30). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from