Why do we cry? The 5 reasons why crying is good for you

James Martin reveals how to avoid crying while chopping onions

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Sadness, anger and happiness can lead to emotional tears, but so can physical pain and irritation in the eyes. Crying isn’t just a random bodily function, it has several purposes. Express.co.uk chatted to Robert Longhurst, consultant optometrist at Phoenix Hospital Group to find out the 5 reasons why crying is good for you.

There are three types of tears: basal tears, reflex tears and emotional tears.

Each type of tear has a different purpose – emotional and physical – and they’re all very important.

Consultant optometrist Robert Longhurst has revealed five ways crying is good for you.

Soothe irritation

Eye irritation is extremely common and it happens to us most days.

Mr Longhurst said: “Reflex tears contain mostly water and are released when something irritates our eyes, such as the wind, smoke, or cutting onions.

“If you have a watery eye in the absence of an irritant, it is best to see your optician.”

Prevent infections

Eye infections such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis are often caused by bacteria, viruses and allergens.

The advice for treating lots of common eye infections is simply to keep it clean while it heals itself because your tears can help to fix the problem.

Mr Longhurst said: “Basal tears contain an enzyme called lysozyme, which is antimicrobial and protects your eyes from infection!”

Protecting cornea

Reflex tears aren’t just brilliant at soothing eye irritation, they protect your cornea.

The cornea is the eye’s outermost lens, controlling and focussing on the entry of light into the eye.

This transparent tissue is also a structural barrier that protects the eye against infections, and tears can be the protector of the cornea.

Mr Longhurst explained: “Because reflex tears contain mostly water, they are good at washing debris from the eyes and thus protecting the cornea from abrasions.”

Lubrication

Around one in 10 women in the UK have dry eye disease and require artificial tears, and it’s nearly as common in men.

Nearly a third of people age 65 or older may have dry eye syndrome and will need to use artificial tear drops several times a day or eye ointment.

People without this syndrome have basal tears or sometimes reflex tears that lubricate the eyes when we blink, Mr Longhurst said.

He explained: “Basal tears contain three layers that prevent the eyes from drying out.
“Dry eyes can make vision blurry so these tears actually help you see!”

Ease pain

Crying isn’t just about keeping the eye lubricated, we have a natural instinct to do it when we feel physical or emotional pain.

Mr Longhurst said: “In addition to stress hormones, emotional tears also contain oxytocin and endorphins that are often referred to as feel-good hormones.

“Emotional tears contain high levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and adrenaline and these hormones can help ease physical as well as emotional pain.

“Therefore, these tears reduce stress and are thought to help us regulate our emotions.
“It is emotional tears people are usually referring to when they talk about crying.”

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