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Ask An Expert: Why Do Our Eyes Get Red as We Age?

Ask An Expert: Why Do Our Eyes Get Red as We Age?

by Anna K. Fryxell, Social Media Associate

As you get older, you may start to notice that your eyes aren’t as clear and white as they were when you were younger. According to a 2011 study published by Ethology, volunteers thought that people with red eyes seemed sadder, less healthy and less attractive than those with whiter eyes. That’s why we decided to find out why this happens.

What it really comes down to is that we make less water components for our tears as we age. “Our tears are made up of three layers: mucin, water and oil,” says Santa Monica, CA, oculoplastic surgeon, Cynthia Boxrud, MD. “The bottom layer is called the mucin layer and is made from the goblet cells in our conjunctiva. The middle layer is a water component made mostly from the lacrimal glands. This water component decreases as we age causing dryness and redness."

Many people especially experience redness after eyelid surgery because the eyes are more open. This causes tear film to evaporate quicker resulting in dryness and redness. Lasik surgery can also cause the same effect. That’s why it’s important for your doctor to measure the amount of tears you produce before performing any of these procedures.

And just like sun exposure can prematurely age our skin, it is also a big reason why our eyes become red. Dr. Boxrud says to always wear sunglasses when outside because they work like sunscreen for your eyes.

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