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Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

Onions are one of the most commony staple foods around the globe. Ironically, for a vegetable so delicious, they can often be tear-jerkers.

Read on to learn why onions cause your eyes to tear and sting, and what you can do to minimize discomfort.

Why Does Cutting Onions Cause Tearing?

Onions produce a sulfur compound called propyl sulfoxide that is stored in the cells of the onion bulb (the part of the onion we eat). Onions grow underground, where they can be eaten by all types of creatures. This odorous sulfuric compound acts as a deterrent to small animals with big appetites.

When one slices into an onion and breaks open its cells, the sulfur compound is released and mixes with the moisture in the air — turning it into smelly and irritating sulfuric acid. When this chemical rises up and comes in contact with your eyes, it stings!

To keep your eyes from potentially being damaged from this chemical exposure, your brain triggers your eyes to tear and flush out the irritating gas particles. Once enough tears have flushed out the sulfuric acids particles from the eye, clear vision and comfort is usually restored. Although your eyes may sting and feel unpleasant, symptoms are temporary and the sulfuric acid won’t damage your eyes.

How Can I Reduce Eye Discomfort When Chopping Onions?

Most experienced chefs will tell you that chilling your onions in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before slicing them will reduce the amount of tearing they cause. Propyl sulfoxide escapes slower in cooler temperatures, reducing the amount of sulfuric acid in the air.

You can also try cutting the onions at arm’s length, or direct the odorous air away with a small fan. Some say that chopping onions immersed in water also helps. Another option is to wear kitchen goggles to protect your eyes.

Furthermore, try to use fresh onions whenever possible. The longer an onion has been stored, the more likely it will induce tearing and discomfort. Try to avoid slicing near the root end of the bulb, as that area has the highest concentration of sulfuric compounds.

Still Having Eye Problems Out of the Kitchen?

If you frequently suffer from eye irritation — and not just while cutting onions — we can help. At EYEcenter Optometric, we treat a wide range of eye conditions and can provide you with the treatment and relief you seek.

For further questions or to schedule an eye exam, call us today.

At EYEcenter Optometric, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 916-727-6518 or book an appointment online to see one of our Citrus Heights eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What exactly is glaucoma?

  • A: Glaucoma is a condition in which the eye’s intraocular pressure (IOP) is too high. This means that your eye has too much aqueous humor in it, either because it produced too much, or because it’s not draining properly. Other symptoms are optic nerve damage and vision loss. Glaucoma is a silent disease that robs the patient of their peripheral vision. Early detection is very important.

Q: What’s the difference between vision insurance and eye insurance?

  • A: Vision insurance” really isn’t insurance, but rather a benefit that covers some of your costs for eyewear and eye care. It is meant to be used for “routine” care when you aren’t having a problem but want to be sure everything is OK, like having an annual screening exam with your Primary Care Physician. It often, but not always, includes a discount or allowance toward glasses or contact lenses. It is usually a supplemental policy to your medical health insurance. Medical health insurance covers, and must be used when an eye health issue exists. This includes pink eye, eye allergies, glaucoma, floaters, cataracts, diabetes, headaches, and many other conditions. Blurry vision is covered medically if it relates to a medical condition, for example the development of a cataract. For some reason, however, it is considered non-medical if the only finding is the need for glasses or a change of prescription. Of course you can’t know this until you have the exam. In this case, with vision coverage, you would only be responsible for your co-pay, but with medical coverage without vision coverage, you’d be responsible for the usual charge.

Q: How does high blood pressure affect vision?

  • A: If the blood pressure is very high it can be called malignant hypertension and cause swelling of the macula and acute loss of vision. Otherwise hypertension can cause progressive constriction of the arterioles in the eye and other findings. Usually high blood pressure alone will not affect vision much, however hypertension is a known risk factor in the onset and/or progression of other eye disease such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration as well as blocked veins and arteries in the retina or nerve of the eye that can severely affect vision.

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REFERENCES

https://www.britannica.com/story/why-do-onions-make-you-cry

https://theconversation.com/why-do-onions-make-you-cry-129519

8 Ways Your Eyes Change With Age

Our eyes and vision change with age. Your eye doctor can monitor these changes — some of which are a natural part of the aging process — and identify any eye conditions or diseases early enough to treat them and prevent vision loss. Read on to learn more about the different types of eye changes one may encounter with age.

Age-Related Eye Conditions and Diseases

Cataracts

If your vision is starting to get blurry, you may be developing cataracts. There are a few types of cataracts, but the one usually caused by aging is known as a “nuclear cataract”. At first, it may lead to increased nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with time, the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and clouds your vision. As the cataract slowly progresses, the lens may even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color, and left untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness. Luckily, cataract surgery, where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear lens, is an extremely safe and effective treatment option.

Blepharoptosis

Blepharoptosis or ptosis is a drooping of the upper eyelid that may affect one or both eyes. The eyelid may droop only slightly or may droop enough to cover the pupil and block vision. It occurs when there is a weakness of the eye’s levator muscle that lifts the eyelid. This condition is usually caused by aging, eye surgery, or disease affecting the muscle or its nerve. Fortunately, blepharoptosis can be corrected with surgery.

Vitreous detachment

This occurs when the gel-like vitreous fluid inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and, sometimes, flashes of light. This occurrence is usually harmless, but floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness, and requires immediate treatment. If you experience sudden or worsening flashes and increased floaters, see Palmer N. Lee, O.D. immediately to determine the cause.

Other Age-Related Changes

In addition to the above eye conditions and diseases, the structure of our eyes and vision change as we get older.

Presbyopia

Why do people in their 40s and 50s have more difficulty focusing on near objects like books and phone screens? The lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape and bring near objects into focus, a process is called presbyopia. Over time, presbyopia, also known as age-related farsightedness, will become more pronounced and you will eventually need reading glasses to see clearly. You may need multiple prescriptions – one prescription to enable you to see up close, one for intermediate distance, and one for distance vision. In that case, people often get bifocals, multifocals or PALs, and they can be combined with contact lenses as well.

Reduced pupil size

As we age, our reaction to light and the muscles that control our pupil size lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. The result? It becomes harder to clearly see objects, such as a menu, in a low-light setting like a restaurant.

Dry eye

Our tear glands produce fewer tears and the tears they produce have less moisturizing oils. Your eye doctor can determine whether your dry eye is age-related or due to another condition, and will recommend the right over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, or other effective and lasting treatments, to alleviate the dryness and restore comfort.

Loss of peripheral vision

Aging causes a 1-3 degree loss of peripheral vision per decade of life. In fact, one may reach a peripheral visual field loss of 20-30 degrees by the time they reach their 70s and 80s. While peripheral vision loss is a normal part of aging, it can also indicate the presence of a serious eye disease, like glaucoma. The best way to ascertain the cause is by getting an eye exam.

Decreased color vision

The cells in the retina responsible for normal color vision tend to decline as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. Though a normal part of aging, faded colors can at times signal a more serious ocular problem.

Beyond the normal changes that come with age, the risk of developing a serious eye disease, such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, increases. Routine eye exams are essential to keeping your eyes healthy. Your eye doctor can determine whether your symptoms are caused by an eye problem or are a normal byproduct of aging.

If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision, we can help. To find out more and to schedule your annual eye doctor’s appointment, contact EYEcenter Optometric in Citrus Heights today.

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