Hi BrainStuff, Cristen here. Today's questionis â€œWhat are eye boogerséâ€� If you've ever had to wipe gunk out of the corners ofyour eyes, it's not because you were visited by the Sandman or a magical mucus fairy. Nope!We live in a cruelly mundane universe. I'm sorry if I'm the first to break it to you. Eye boogers are a buildup of the â€œprecornealâ€�or â€œbasalâ€� tear film that coats and protects your eyes plus any foreign particles itcatches. This tear film is just 3 micrometers thick,which is less than half the diameter of a red blood cell, but it's made up of 3 components:the mucin, the aqueous, and the lipid.
The aqueous component is the operative one:It nourishes, lubricates, and flushes your eyes' cells. It also smoothes over the microscopiclumps and bumps on the surface of your eyes, creating a smooth lens that optimizes lighttransfer into your retina. The other two components are a support systemfor the aqueous one: The mucin component underneath allows it to temporarily stick to your eyes.Mucins are the proteins that make mucus slimy. And the lipid component outside holds it inplace, so that you're not just crying constantly like you've got Moulin Rouge playing onloop. Without the lipid layer, our tear film would drip right off of our eyeballs.
But how do these components become eye boogers,and why do they accumulate in the inner corners of your eyesé I'll tell ya. When you blink, your entire eyelid doesn'tclose simultaneously. It shuts like a meaty clapperboard, from the outer corners of youreyes inward toward your nose. Your tear film gets pushed along by the motion. Upon reaching the inner corner of your eye,most of the film drains out through the tear ducts, which empty into your nasal cavity.But some of the film â€“ the mucins, oils, and debris â€“ can clump together and getstuck.
When enough of that builds up, it forms thegoop known as eye boogers. And when it accumulates and dries overnight because you're not blinkingit away, it forms the crusty gunk known as sleep or sand. Isn't this the sexiest science you've everheardé So that answers today's question, but I'vegot a question for you: What other gross stuff do you want to know abouté Let us know inthe comments. And to learn more about everything from tears to space telescopes, head overto HowStuffWorks .
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