Tears are annoying. Nobody really likes crying, even when it’s the result of life’s great joys.
But you need tears. They lubricate and nourish your eyes while also acting as an antimicrobial agent. Tears don’t just show up when you cry, either. Tear glands are constantly working to keep your eyes dry and nourished.
That’s why a team of Dutch researchers was compelled to grow miniature tear glands in a lab. The team wanted to figure out exactly how the glands worked and potentially create a transplantable tear gland that could be used to help people with disorders.
Much like tears, dry eyes can be annoying. In fact, most might say they are worse. They get itchy and sometimes feel like there are filled with pebbles. You rub them, and it only gets worse.
Screens like smartphone tablets increase the likelihood of dry eyes. Staring without breaks limits blinking and eye lubrication.
Dry eye disease is a thing. Some people experience severe dysfunction of the tear glands, dry eye disease, or other tear gland disorders.
Some conditions, like Sjogren’s syndrome, can lead to ulcers on the cornea that could even lead to blindness.
So, your tears are important.
Of course, these lab-generated tear ducts aren’t going to be common practice anytime soon, if ever. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about the value of tears and the risks of dry eyes.
If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, create little habits that remind you to blink. I know blinking seems natural, but staring at screens can severely limit blinking.
If needed, try the 20-20-20 rule: look away from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Staying up to date with visits to the eye doctor, maybe once every year or two, can also help you keep tabs on any potential problems with tear glands.
No one’s blaming you for not paying attention to tears, blinking, or your tear glands. But they play a very important role in vision and eye health. So, give them a little love!