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Why do we have tears in our eyes?

Posted on 11 October 2016

Why do we have tears in our eyes?

You may not know but there are three main types of tears:


The first of these are basal tears. These are the tears that we secrete every minute of the day while we are awake and while we are sleeping. They are designed to continually lubricate the ocular surface to maintain good eye health. These tears have antibacterial properties and reduce the incidence of eye infection. They also lubricate the interface between the eye and the eyelid meaning that the eyelid glides over the front of the eye. By maintaining a good, stable ocular surface, basal tears lead to greater clarity of vision. 

The second type of tears are reflex tears. These are the tears that occur when we injure our eyes or are exposed to noxious gases such as chlorine or onion fumes. Reflex tears are designed to protect the eye and flush out any foreign body that is in the ocular surface. 

The third type of tears are emotional or psychological tears. These are the tears that occur when we are angry or upset. Studies have found that the composition of these tears is different to reflex and basal tears and that in fact emotional tears contain more hormones. The reason that we have emotional tears is controversial. One theory is that it is a way of releasing these hormones. Another theory is that by secreting emotional tears we are expressing our emotions so that other people are aware of how we feel.