The Tear Film

The tear film consists of three layers: the mucoid, aqueous and oily layers.

The mucoid layer lies adjacent to the corneal epithelium. It improves the wetting properties of the tears. It is produced by the goblet cells in the conjunctival epithelium.

The watery (aqueous) layer is produced by the main lacrimal gland in the superotemporal part of the orbit and accessory lacrimal glands found in the conjunctival stroma. This aqueous layer contains electrolytes, proteins, lysozyme, immunoglobulins, glucose and dissolved oxygen (from the atmosphere).

The oily layer (superficial layer of the tear film) is produced by the meibomian glands (modified sebaceous glands) of the eyelid margins. This oily layer helps maintain the vertical column of tears between the upper and lower lids and prevents excessive evaporation.

The tears normally flow away through a drainage system formed by the puncta (inferior and superior), canaliculi (inferior and superior), the common canaliculus (opening into the lacrimal sac) and the nasolacrimal duct (which drains into the nose).

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