As many of you will know, I have been studying dry eye and tear film health quite intensively for some time, and I have just read a research article that, if I am honest, I started reading thinking that it was an April fool!
However, this just goes to show how important it is not to pre-judge.
Virtually everyone has eyelashes, although their function has long remained a mystery. It appears that your eye lashes are very important for your eye health and comfort of your eyes and they are there for a vital reason.
Research shows that people with no lashes suffer higher than average rates of eye infection, than those who have eyelashes. This finding suggests that lashes have a protective function for the eyes.
The most obvious conclusion from this is that lashes act as a net, catching airborne particles that would otherwise land in the eye. It was thought that lashes sense foreign bodies before they can harm the eye triggering a protective blink. It was also thought they shielded some of the sun’s rays from entering the eye.
However, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology believe that this isn’t quite what happens. It seems that the lashes change the air flow around the eyes creating a layer of protection made up of relatively still air and therefore reducing air flow over the cornea of our eyes which keep particles away, and also help retain moisture. The slow-moving air acts as a protective layer of sorts.
Eye Lash Length
Interestingly, it appears that the length of your eyelashes is very important too! Through measurements in the animal kingdom, it was found that 22 species of mammals possess eyelashes of a length one-third the eye width, and it turns out our lashes are this perfect length too.
Wind tunnel experiments have confirmed that this length is significant, and this optimal eyelash length reduces both deposition of airborne particles and evaporation of the tear film significantly.
If eye lashes are too long, they act as a funnel, directing air into the eye and upsetting the protective layer, if they are too short or missing then there is nothing to create that still air cushion that seems critical for the comfort and health of the eye.
If you wear eye lash extensions or false eyelashes for a period, it is worth being aware that it is likely to have an effect on the tear film, the eyes might dry out much more quickly and if you are a contact lens wearer as well then be very aware and use some appropriate artificial tears to be sure.
Eye Lash Health
Interestingly, this links up with one of the other conditions that significantly affects tear quality, and that is blepharitis. This is where the lid margins and lashes are infected, and so the lashes matt together and therefore the critical length ang coverage of the lashes is interfered with.
Using Bephaclean wipes to control the blepharitis can make a significant difference, more than just controlling the infection, and perhaps this is why.
Protecting Your Eyes
However, it is worth considering that we shouldn’t leave all the eye protection to your eye lashes. Always wear sunglasses when outdoors. Quality sunglasses block glare, shield your eyes from dust, air, water and other particles and they block UVA and UVB rays which have been linked to eye conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and more.