Making sense of medicine why are you crying lifestyles newburyportnews.com gas 10 8 schlauchadapter

Tears lubricate the outer protective dome layer of your eyeball, the cornea, keeping it clear and scratch-free. They’re your built-in automatically dispensed glass cleaner, requiring no spraying from a bottle and no wiping with a paper towel. In addition, tears contain assorted antibodies, electrolytes, vitamins and proteins that resist infection of your eyes.

Your body is chock-full of glands. There are lymph glands, salivary glands, sweat glands, mammary glands, pituitary gland, pineal gland, hypothalamus, thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries, testes and a lot more. What glands do is secrete specific kinds of fluid needed for your body to function. There are some that secrete their fluid directly into your bloodstream, endocrine glands, and those whose secretion does not enter the bloodstream, exocrine glands.

For tears, the ones of interest here are your two lacrimal glands, one for each eye. The term comes from the Latin word lacryma, which means a tear. These are almond-shaped exocrine glands whose secretion enters your eyes, not your bloodstream.

The lacrimal glands are located in the upper part of each eye socket toward the outside. Tears are secreted in different quantities and qualities depending on the reason for the tear, but they always pass through tiny holes in your eyelids onto your eyes, and normally into lacrimal ducts to the lacrimal sac at the inner corner of your eyes. From there, they are drained into your nose.

Under normal, nonemotional conditions, called lacrimation, your lacrimal gland produces a tear, and you blink unconsciously to spread the lubricating and nourishing fluid over your eye, as well as to move the tear toward its nasal drainage. When you’re having a really good cry, on the other hand, your lacrimal drainage system can’t keep up with the demand. The result is tears pouring over your eyelids and face and, of course, making your nose run.

There are also psychic tears that result from extreme emotions such as stress, pleasure, physical pain, anger and sadness. Psychic tears contain a natural painkiller called leucine enkephalin, which some think may account for your feeling better after a good cry. These are called psychic tears because they are triggered by a part of your brain that deals with emotions. So, your emotional reaction stimulates your nervous system, which then activates your tear-producing system.

Actually, there’s a fourth kind that one calls crocodile tears. This means putting on insincere sadness, counterfeit humility, with tears to go along. The legend is that crocodiles start weeping in order to draw in their prey — and then eat them. It seems that crocodiles do shed tears when eating, but it’s a biological response to eating, not an attempt to attract prey. I’d be interested to know if anyone’s looked at crocodile tears under a microscope.

All of the above are natural ways your body uses tears. Some things can go wrong, however. These fall into five categories: wet or dry eye, blockage of the drainage, inflammation or tumors of the lacrimal gland, and tumors of the lacrimal sac.

Dry and wet eyes are among the more common disorders of your lacrimal system. Dry eye was the subject of an earlier column ( “Tears are the key to eye comfort and health,” Jan. 23, 2015), and so I’ll pass on to the problem of too much tearing in your eyes, epiphora.

The overproduction of tears is often a result of dry eye. It could be that the composition of your tears has an imbalance of water, salt and oils. It could also mean that your cornea or conjunctiva is inflamed in some way, with your body overproducing tears to counter this. And it could be the result of eyelid or eyelash problems or allergies.

The best way to treat this problem depends, of course, on the cause. If there is infection, then prescription eye drops may be the best treatment. For allergies, then you need to treat the allergy. In many cases, a warm wet towel placed on your eyes several times a day may be effective in clearing blockage of the drainage tubes.