Did you know our tears have three layers?

Written by editor
May 2, 2017

These three layers all contribute to proper comfort and visual function of the eye. If any of these layers are deficient or produced in inadequate amounts, blur and discomfort occur.

Mucus layer: This layer is produced by goblet cells on the surface of the eye. Mucus helps the tear film to adhere to the eye as well as hold the next layer in place. It is this layer that contributes to 'crusties' or 'sleep matter' when we wake up. When a patient suffers from allergies, excess mucus is produced in an effort to protect the eye. Sometimes patients will find they have to wipe away excess mucus.

Aqueous layer: This layer is produced primarily by the lacrimal gland. The aqueous layer is composed mostly of water and makes up the vast majority of the overall tear film. This layer keeps the cornea hydrated. Drops like Restasis and Xiidra help most with this layer.

Lipid layer: The lipid layer is secreted by meibomian glands. This layer is oily, and floats on top of the watery aqueous layer. The lipid layer is very important for patients with dry eye, as the underlying aqueous layer can evaporate if the lipid layer is too thin. The oil is released from glands with each full blink. Most patients with dry eye disease have an issue with this oil layer. Treatments like warm compresses, doxycycline, and most effectively--LipiFlow, help to remedy problems with this lipid layer.


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