Crying is a part of life, whether you love it or hate it. There are several different reasons why you may need to cry, but the process is actually quite complex. Your eyes must produce tears in order to maintain their health and keep them safe. There are many concepts to understand when it comes to your tears, but understanding them will help you see why crying is so normal for everyone and when to be concerned.

How Are Tears Produced?

You may not realize or notice, but your eyes are producing tears at all times throughout the day when you blink. Keeping your eyes moist and clean is crucial to protecting them from dust or irritants. These basal tears, which are always present, do not produce enough moisture for any physical tears to spill out of your eyes. The lacrimal gland located in the outer corners of your eyes is responsible for producing all kinds of tears.

Tears are all made up of water, electrolytes which contribute to the salty taste, some protein, lipids, and mucus. The mucus forms a thin layer over the surface of your eye when you blink and keeps tears sticking to your eyeball. If there is excess liquid, it is drained through a system that attaches to your nasal canal, thus causing you to become sniffly when you cry a lot. If you ever find that you have trouble releasing these excess tears through your nose, consider seeing an eye doctor to make sure you have healthy eyes.

When we cry in large amounts, we overproduce tears in the lacrimal gland, usually because of an emotional signal our body has released. This causes your tears to fall down your cheeks because your eyes don’t have enough drainage. Additionally, there’s a small amount of oil in your tears which helps them stay on your cheeks for longer without evaporating. If your tears don’t have enough oil, you could experience dry eyes.

Why Do We Cry?

There are two main types of tears, each with a reason as to why you may find yourself crying every now and then. It’s a perfectly normal and human response to either a rush of emotions or a brief period of pain. In fact, humans are the only known animals that produce tears because of emotions and to communicate with others. However, crying isn’t only a result of being sad, and there are numerous elements that go into the process.

Probably the most well-known type of tear is emotional, produced in response to a strong feeling like happiness or sadness. These tend to make us feel more vulnerable because they can be difficult to hold back once you’ve let go. Many scientists believe that emotional tears contain more protein than others, which is why they stick to your face for a longer period of time and run slower. When you finish crying after some especially powerful emotions, these tears might end up making you feel slightly better and stabilize your mood.

The other type of tear is the reflex tear, forming as a result of pain or irritation. If you experience this over a long time period, you are more likely to produce reflex tears. When this does take place, your body releases chemicals, called endorphins and oxytocin, which are used to relieve physical and emotional pain or discomfort. Babies cry so much when they are young because they don’t know how else to communicate their needs, however, the more they grow, the less they cry. Some other situations that may cause reflexive tears are vomiting, yawning, or coughing too much.

Fun Facts About Crying

1. On average, humans produce anywhere from 15 to 30 gallons of tears every year.

2. Hormonal changes or aging can both result in dry eyes, but see an eye doctor if you think there could be a problem.

3. Women cry at least twice as much as men.

4. Tears have a similar composition to your saliva.

5. Crocodiles shed tears to cleanse their eyes.

6. Crying has several benefits for you.

7. For centuries, many people thought that tears were created in the heart.

8. Onions release propanediol S-oxide, which is the chemical that causes us to cry while cutting them.

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Anath Foundation

A portion of your purchase is donated to the Anath Foundation to help families on their cancer journey. Learn more about the impact of your purchase!

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