Body gets wiser as we get older


Ageing might seem like a one way process but the human body has some surprising ways of adapting to keep the years at bay. Our liver has the ability to regenerate and our nervous system will work harder it if senses that the brain and other vital organs are not receiving enough blood.

Even our eyes may adapt to help overcome a condition–meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)–that causes ‘dry eye’ and typically worsens with age. Researchers at Brien Holden Vision Institute have found that some people of 54 years and over are more likely to produce tears, a natural eye lubricant, which could counter early stages of dry eye.

“Our eyes water for many reasons,” said Dr Nisha Yeotikar, Research Fellow, Brien Holden Vision Institute. “An eye irritation may result in protective watering that can clear irritants – fumes from onions or an allergic reaction, for example. Most commonly, eye watering occurs with a very minor injury, caused by a scratch or a particle of dirt, and this is an important process.

“On other occasions, eye watering comes from emotions such as laughter or sadly, tears of sorrow.”

Research by Dr Yeotikar found that as we get older, eye lubrication from the meibomian gland, a small gland in the eyelids that produces an oily lubricant, decreases. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a major cause of dry eye and affects up to 70% of people in some groups, with a greater prevalence in Asian populations.

“Progressive meibomian gland loss occurs normally with age, accompanied by reduced quality and quantity of the meibum produced,” said Dr Yeotikar. “These changes should bring a corresponding increase in dry eye symptoms.”

However, Dr Yeotikar’s research has found that tears could make up for a loss of lubrication caused by MGD.

“Interestingly, we found that tear functions, including tear volume, were commonly improved with older age and this could counterbalance some of the effects of meibomian gland changes,” Dr Yeotikar added.

In general population, asymptomatic MGD is more than twice as common as symptomatic MGD. Therefore, there are often no tell-tail signs of MGD when it is at an early stage. However, as MGD progresses, symptoms developed include itching, redness, pain and blurred vision. 

“A regular eye examination should be part of your health routine,” said Dr Yeotikar. “This will ensure that conditions such as MGD are detected and appropriate treatments are recommended.”


Media Contact

Philip Chandrapal, Communications Officer, (02) 9385 9876,

About Brien Holden Vision Institute

The Brien Holden Vision Institute believes in vision for everyone…everywhere. The Institute is a global multidisciplinary research, development, commercialisation, education and public health organisation, focused on developing breakthrough vision correction and eye care solutions that will improve the quality of vision people experience, prevent blindness and deliver equity in eye care access worldwide.