Basic Science

Why do tears come out when we cry? 

Whether it is physical pain or emotional pain, when the pain becomes unbearable, we cry. And when we cry, tears roll down our cheek. Have you ever tasted tears? It is salty.
When we cry, tears come out from our eyes. What are tears? Tears are produced by lacrimal gland, present in between your eyebrow bone and upper eyelid.

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Tears are secreted by the lacrimal gland all the time in small amounts, this helps to keep our eyes moist. Tears contain mainly salty water, mucus and chemicals. We blink our eyes all the time and when we blink, our eye lids help to spread tears over the surface of our eyes. Mucus prevents tears from evaporating and save our eyes from becoming dry. Chemicals present in tears are a type of enzymes that kill germs. Extra amounts of tears drain out through our nose, by a special drainage system. That is why whenever we cry; we generally also experience a runny nose.

Now, when we cry, tear start to flow. This is because when we cry, our eyes water in more quantity than that our eye can hold. But, the question is, why exactly do our eyes water when we are sad?

When do we cry? We cry when we are emotionally affected. We cry when we are very sad or we are overwhelmed with joy. We cry when we are in great pain. We cry when we are injured badly.

Sometimes children cry when they are hungry or want to draw attention of others. So, it is obvious that there is a certain mechanism or system in our body which is triggered by these emotions that make us cry. This system is called the limbic system; it is governed by the hypothalamus which is a part of our brain. This system is an integral part of our autonomic nervous system which we do not have conscious control over. Our emotions trigger the hypothalamus and produce chemicals (neurotransmitters). The neurotransmitter which is produced to induce crying is called acetylcholine.

So, when we are highly emotional, this acetylcholine is produced and activates the lacrimal gland and produces tears. These tears come out through tiny holes present in the inner corner of the two eye lids, which are called puncta (shown in picture above).
On this note crying is actually good for a person’s health. It releases stress and mental pressure. Crying does not make one weak, rather it reduces emotional burden helps us to achieve emotional stability.
If you think crying is a characteristic of weak person, you may not be right. In reality crying releases stress and mental pressure. It lightens our emotional pain and thus we get back our emotional stability. To end on the positive note that crying is healthy for our emotions.

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Susmita Dasgupta

Susmita is a trained, veteran primary school teacher. She loves to teach and to make learning exciting for children. One of her great passions in life is to create in her students a curiosity about life and all its accompanying mysteries.

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