Tears are often seen as a sign
of weakness, but in reality, they are
strong defenders of your eyes.
They do this by forming a protective
layer that keeps irritants (such as
smoke, dust and other particles) and
bacteria out of the eyes and allowing
you to see. This layer can be found on
the surfaces of your eyes at all times
and is renewed each time you blink.
“Tears are very important,” says
ophthalmologist Jitendra Gohill
of Calgary. “They protect against
infections and deliver nutrients to the
surface of the eyes.”
If your tears begin to dry up, it
can lead to different eye problems,
including dry eye disease. That
disease’s symptoms include eye pain or
irritation, stinging, burning, sensitivity
mood, tears need
Dry eyes can lead to a number of problems
What’s in a tear?
Tears have a balance of three different layers—aqueous, lipid and
mucous—that work together to protect the eye.
The aqueous layer is water and protein, and helps the tear spread in
a thin film.
The lipid layer contains oils, and coats the aqueous layer.
The mucous layer covers the cornea and also helps the tear spread
over the eye.
to light, tearing and blurred vision.
If left untreated, dry eye disease can
lead to more chronic problems, such as
permanent scarring of the cornea and
Dry eyes have many causes, some of
which are hard to prevent.
“If you live in a hot or dry climate,
then it’s almost inevitable,” Calgary
optometrist Farrah Sunderji says. Air
conditioning, fans and heating can
also lead to dry eyes, as can some
medical conditions, such as diabetes,
rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Those taking birth control or allergy
medications are also more likely to
have dry eyes.
To prevent and relieve dry eyes,
Gohill and Sunderji both suggest
taking breaks from computers, books,
televisions and other devices that
require prolonged attention. Over-
the-counter eye drops may be used
for temporary relief. In extreme cases,
optometrists may prescribe eye drops
or other medications.
Proper eye hygiene and sun
protection can help keep tears healthy
and keep your eyes feeling fresh.
If you have dry eye symptoms, see
your optometrist, who can properly
diagnose the problem and, if needed,
advise on treatment.
— Yasmin Jaswal
For more about tears, visit