Have you ever wondered what your tears are made of? If you’ve ever tasted a tear you might think that tears are composed of salt. Well, you would be partly correct. Tears are mostly made of water, but also contain salt, fatty oils and over 1,500 different proteins. The electrolytes in tears include sodium, which is what gives tears their characteristic salty taste, bicarbonate, chloride and potassium. Tears also contain low levels of magnesium and calcium.
Together, these components make up three distinct layers in your tears. Each of these layers serves their own purpose.
The mucus layer is the inner layer of the tear film which helps spread the watery layer over the eye surface to keep it moist and keeps the tear attached to the eye.
The aqueous layer — the middle and thickest layer — makes up most of what we see as tears. This layer hydrates and cleans your eye, washes away foreign particles, keeps bacteria away and protects your cornea.
The oily layer is the outside of the tear film. It prevents the other layers from evaporating and also keeps the tear’s surface smooth so that you can see through it.
You need the right amount of all these components to have good quality tears. Tears keep the surface of your eyes smooth and clear while also protecting against infection. Without enough tears, your eyes are at risk of:
- Injuries, such as corneal abrasion
- Eye infection
- Corneal ulcer
- Vision disturbances
Many people experience dry eye, a common condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. People with dry eyes may experience irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning eyes; a feeling of something in their eyes; excess watering; and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
Treatments for dry eyes aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health.
To learn more about tears and eye health, contact Eye Institute of South Jersey, P.C. at 856-205-1100 or website.