What’s in your tears?

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The British are renowned for having a stiff upper lip, a belief which a new survey has confirmed, with 55.7% of respondents saying that us Brits don’t like to show our emotions. And yet despite this, 60.7% of those surveyed admitted to having cried within the last month, with a surprising fifth (19.5%) of men confessing to having cried within the last week.[1]

We all know that different emotions and conditions can drive us to tears, but have you ever wondered what’s in your tears and how they work?

The survey, commissioned by leading eye care brand Bausch +Lomb on behalf of Artelac, found that two-thirds of us (66.3%)[2] don’t think all tears are the same. However a similar number (65.7%)[3] couldn’t say what’s in our tears, or how different types may contain different substances.

Did you know you have three types of tears?

  1. Basal tears: lubricate the eye and fight bacterial infection.
  2. Reflex tears: are produced as and when needed to flush out dirt and other irritants such as onion vapours: a huge 85.3% of us admit to crying while chopping onions. They can also be triggered by yawning, bright light and eating hot or peppery foods such as a vindaloo curry, something which nearly half (49.3%) of respondents have experienced on at least one occasion.[4]
  3. Psychic tears: are linked to our emotions and physical pain. These tears contain different hormones to the other types of tears, including enkephalin, a natural painkiller. Now that is clever.

Psychic tears can be caused by a range of emotions:

  • 75% of us have cried at the death of a loved one
  • Two-thirds of us have cried out of frustration
  • 32% have cried at the birth of a child or grandchild.
  • However, a cold quarter (24.9%) of those surveyed confessed to never having cried over a break-up![5]

The Artelac survey also revealed that a surprising number of us aren’t averse to using crocodile tears, with men exposed as the worst culprits: over half of the men questioned (50.7%) said they would turn on the tears to avoid a difficult conversation, compared to only 48% of women.[6]

So where do our tears come from?

Tears form the tear film – a very thin, constant layer of moisture that sits on the front surface of the eye. It is so thin that you can fit 143 tear films into the space of 1mm! Its function is instrumental to the general health of the eye. There are 3 phases to the tear film:

  • Mucus (sticky)
  • Aqueous (watery)
  • Lipid (oily)

The mucus phase is the layer that sits closest to the eye. It helps to keep the tear film on the surface. It is derived from cells known as goblet cells. The mucus phase protects the eyes by making it difficult for bacteria to penetrate through to the cornea. It also provides a hydrophilic (water-loving) surface for the next phase – the aqueous layer to rest upon.

The aqueous or watery phase comes from the lacrimal glands which can be found above the upper eyelids. These secrete water, proteins and molecules that help keep the cornea hydrated, comfortable and enriched with nutrients.

In order to keep the aqueous phase from evaporating, the final layer is the lipid layer – a thin film of oil that sits on top of the aqueous and is secreted from glands within the lids, known as the Meibomian glands. There are numerous orifices along the upper and lower lid margins from which the oil comes from. Each blink of the eye pumps this oil out of these tiny holes and it is then spread across the surface evenly and instantaneously. The lipid layer provides lubrication for the lids, thus preventing the eyelids from sticking, and forms a barrier to prevent the overflow of tears.

Overall, the tear film provides:

  • Nourishment to the cornea in the form of oxygen, glucose, salts and minerals
  • A smooth optical surface for light rays entering the eye
  • Lubrication to the cornea and the eyelids that prevents dehydration and enables the eyelids to slide smoothly over the cornea
  • A fluid layer where foreign particles are suspended and then flushed from the eye
  • Antibacterial enzymes that attack harmful bacteria on the eye

Phew – who’d have thought it was that complex?

Do you ever get dry eyes? It’s a common problem as we age; over half (50.6%) of the people in the Artelac survey admitted to having suffered from dry eyes, with a similar number (49.7%) correctly identifying ageing as one of the key causes.[7]

However, alcohol consumption, laser eye surgery and some medications can also contribute to dry eye syndrome, and women are more likely to get it than men – which could be due in part to fluctuating hormones. On top of this, our modern living means that we are spending more time in air-conditioned spaces, in front of computers or looking at smartphones, which can also cause dry eyes.

Discomfort, visual disturbance and grittiness, plus not having the protective film of tears in your eyes, can affect your quality of life. It could, in time, also lead to inflammation and lasting damage to your cornea, so it’s worth doing something about it. However a surprising 47.3% of those surveyed did not think or know whether dry eye could be treated.[8]

There’s a new, round-the-clock way to combat the growing problem of dry eyes. Bausch & Lomb’s easy-to-use Artelac® Rebalance drops will help keep your eyes hydrated during the day thanks to their hyaluronic acid (HA) component. HA stays viscous when your eyes are open and becomes more fluid when you blink, just like natural tears. Artelac® Rebalance drops also contain unique ingredient Viscelactor (PEG 8000), which works with the HA to strengthen your film of tears without blurring your vision. They’re really simple to use –­ just put a few drops in your eyes whenever they feel dry throughout the day.

Artelac Rebalance

Artelac® Nighttime Gel is a higher viscosity, with three layers of film stability so your eyes stay comfortable all night. Simply put a drop in your lower lid before bed.

Francesca Marchetti, optician and advisor to WINK – an independent eye care panel from Bausch + Lomb – says, ‘The science behind Artelac® Nighttime Gel is impressive. A study in the journal Opthalmology reported that carbomer gel used in Artelac® Nighttime Gel provided “statistically significant improvement” in symptoms including discomfort, dryness and the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye.’

Artelac® Rebalance and Artelac® Nighttime Gel are available from independent pharmacies and opticians. Artelac® Rebalance has an RRP of £6.95; Artelac® Nighttime Gel has an RRP of £4.99.

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