A tale of tears

SCIENCE FOR YOUTH

BY Hiya Islam

science 12Throughout the years, mind-blowing breakthroughs have been made in science. Technological progress and rapid scientific advances have helped in shaping our society and answering fundamental questions about life and universe. Yet, there are mysteries waiting to be solved. Take for example, the Bermuda Triangle. What’s up with it? And, why can’t we still detect dark matter? Why do we cry?

The relation between crying and brain is an odd one. Many theories have been put forward to explain the connection. And the most logical of them all states that the body tries to return itself to its baseline functioning after being emotionally aroused by crying. Be it the loss of a favorite series character or finally meeting your long-distance bestie, tears will flow out.

Although underappreciated, tears are there for a cause. Basically, tears keep the eyeball moist and contain chemicals that combat against bacteria. Interestingly enough, there is not just one type of tear but three. (No, these are not happy, sad and crocodile tears). Basal tears are primarily made of salt, mucus, enzymes and water. This type is always there and we don’t really cry them out, because, as we blink, it spreads across the cornea and sticks to it by mucus. They are full-time workers. Without them, eyes would dry out. Secondly, reflex tears, which have a composition similar to basal tears. Their purpose? Protection. This is the kind we cry when our eyes are disturbed by irritants such as, dust, smoke, wind and evil, like onions! Excessive production of this liquid ensures that irritants are being washed out. Last but not the least, psychic or emotional tears, the only type most of us know. They contain additional proteins like, stress hormones. Crying helps to flush out such compounds and bring relief.

Tears are formed by the tear or lacrimal glands found in the upper eyelid. The inner corner of each eye houses the tear ducts which run to the nose. These tiny ducts act as drainage pipes to remove extra tears. For this reason, the nose first gets runny when we start to cry. And when the drainage system fails to cope, tears ‘leak’ out of the eyes, roll down the cheeks and wet the nearest object the head lies on. However, each tear has a specific structure to it. There are three layers in each droplet. The inner layer, closest to eye contains mucus produced by goblet cells on the eye surface. On top of this is the aqueous layer secreted by lacrimal gland comprising enzymes, proteins and other chemicals. The outermost layer is the lipid layer that reduces evaporation of the aqueous layer.

Is crying good for you? Many people believe in crying to be healthy. A good sob-session has been found to be an instant mood-lifter allowing you to start again with a blank slate. But many people do associate crying to be a stigma, especially with men. However, bottling built-up emotions do greater damage than some little private time could ever do.

Hiya Islam is a student of BRAC University.

 

 

 

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