Watery eyes[1], also known as epiphora, is a common eye condition that is characterized by excess production of tears, leading to an overflow onto the face. While it is understood that tears are essential for maintaining eye health and lubrication, an imbalance in their production or drainage can result in persistent watery eyes. This condition may stem from various causes, including allergies, irritants, infections, or other underlying medical issues. The involuntary and excessive shedding of tears not only causes discomfort but can also impact vision, and daily activities, and ultimately can decrease quality of life. Understanding the triggers and seeking appropriate medical attention are crucial steps in managing and knowing how to stop eyes from watering.

What are the causes of watery eyes?

  • Watery eyes can be attributed to various factors[2] spanning from foreign objects and injuries to allergies, infections, and other eyelid changes. Identifying the specific cause is vital for tailored treatment.
  • Foreign objects or injuries to the eye, which can be caused by a speck of dirt or dust or a scratch caused by a contact lens can provoke excessive tearing. It can also cause pain and discomfort to the eye.

  • Allergies to common irritants such as pollen, dust, or pet dander trigger an immune response and can cause allergic rhinitis (or hay fever)[3]. This is an allergic response that occurs which often leads to watery eyes as a way to combat the allergens.
  • Infection and inflammation can be another cause of watery eyes.
    • Pink eye also called conjunctivitis is very common as it is caused by either a virus or bacteria in either one or both eyes. Since the blood vessels in the eyes are inflamed, a pink or red color appears thus giving it its name.
    • Keratitis or inflammation of the cornea can also cause watery eyes as the clear lens of the eye becomes inflamed.
    • The lacrimal or tear glands can appear inflamed which can lead to excess tearing.
    • An ingrown eyelash can become infected which can cause swelling and watery eyes.
    • Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelids which appears when the oil glands become clogged.
    • Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye and can lead to blindness if not treated.

  • The nasolacrimal ducts are tear ducts that are located inside the corner of each eye. Their primary function is to drain away tears to prevent the buildup of water in the eye. Swollen tear ducts are caused by obstruction and can impede proper drainage, resulting in watery eyes. Nasolacrimal duct obstruction accounts for about 31%[4] of those who present with chronic eye-watering.

  • Eyelids are crucial parts of the eye as they help to evenly sweep tears away. Any changes to them can cause excessive watering of the eyes.
  • Other contributing factors[5] include:
    • Dry eyes
    • Cold and flu
    • Exposure to sun and wind
    • Prolonged use of digital devices
    • Injuries to the face or nose
    • Sinus infections

What are the symptoms associated with watery eyes?

Epiphora can present itself with other various symptoms.

  • Blurred vision as the overflow of tears affects the clarity of sight.
  • Discomfort or irritation
  • Burning watery eyes
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Enlarged blood vessels of the eye
  • Itchy tear duct

How are watery eyes diagnosed?

Diagnosing watery eyes involves a comprehensive assessment by an optometrist. Typically diagnosis begins with a detailed medical history to identify potential causes such as allergies, infections, or pre-existing eye conditions. A thorough eye examination follows, including an evaluation of tear production, drainage, and overall eye health. Specialized tests, like Schirmer’s test, determine tear production and whether there is enough to keep the eye moist. Imaging techniques, such as dacryocystography, can identify obstructions in the tear ducts. In cases of suspected infection, a swab or culture may be taken for analysis. Additionally, assessing the eyelids and surrounding structures helps detect abnormalities like blepharitis or eyelid malpositions. Collaborative approaches may include allergen testing for allergic triggers. Overall, diagnosis of watery eyes necessitates a combination of patient history, clinical examination, and, if required, supplementary tests to pinpoint the underlying cause and guide targeted treatment strategies.

What is the treatment for watery eyes?

The treatment of watery eyes depends on the underlying cause. For allergies, medications such as antihistamines or allergy eye drops may provide relief. In cases of infection, antibiotic or antiviral medications are prescribed. Blocked tear ducts may require surgical intervention or procedures like dilation or probing to get any foreign objects out of the eye. Managing conditions like blepharitis involves good eyelid hygiene and warm compresses. Artificial tears or prescription eye drops help alleviate symptoms of dry eyes. Environmental factors, such as wind or sun exposure, may be addressed with protective measures such as wearing sunglasses. In addition, adding Occuvital Eye Health supplements protects eyes from free radicals, promotes vision quality, and promotes healthy eyes.

Blocked tear ducts

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I worry about watery eyes?

While occasional watery eyes are common and often not serious, persistent or severe symptoms should not be ignored. If you experience consistent tearing, discomfort, blurred vision, or accompanying redness, it's advisable to seek professional eye care. Watery eyes can be indicative of various underlying issues, including allergies, infections, or structural obstructions. It can also be a sign of other issues. Evaluation by an eye care specialist can help diagnose the root cause and guide appropriate treatment. Additionally, early intervention can prevent potential vision problems and improve overall eye health.

Does watery eyes mean anything?

Watery eyes can be indicative of various underlying issues and should not be dismissed. Excessive tearing may result from factors such as allergies, infections, dry eyes, or blocked tear ducts. Persistent watery eyes can be a symptom of more serious conditions, including conjunctivitis, corneal problems, or systemic health issues. Environmental factors, like wind or sun exposure, and lifestyle choices, such as prolonged digital device use, can also contribute. In some cases, watery eyes may be a sign of an autoimmune or inflammatory disorder. It is crucial to pay attention to accompanying symptoms, such as redness, discomfort, or changes in vision, and seek professional medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What deficiency causes watery eyes?

Watery eyes are not typically directly caused by specific nutrient deficiencies, but certain deficiencies can contribute to conditions that may result in excessive tearing. For instance, a deficiency in vitamin A is associated with itchy eyes. Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining the health of the cornea and the tear film. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are essential for overall eye health and may influence tear production and quality.

How long will watery eyes last?

The duration of watery eyes depends on the underlying cause. If the issue is related to a mild condition, such as exposure to irritants, symptoms may resolve on their own within a few days to a week. Allergies might cause episodes that last as long as the allergen exposure persists. However, if watery eyes result from a chronic condition like dry eye syndrome, blocked tear ducts, or an ongoing infection, symptoms may persist for an extended period and require ongoing management.

Conclusion

Watery eyes can stem from a variety of causes, ranging from temporary irritants to chronic conditions. While some instances may resolve on their own, persistent or severe symptoms necessitate professional evaluation to determine the underlying issue. Whether linked to allergies, infections, or structural abnormalities, timely diagnosis and tailored treatment are crucial for effective relief. Ignoring prolonged watery eyes may lead to complications and greatly impact eye health. Seeking guidance from an eye care specialist ensures a comprehensive approach, addressing the root cause and promoting optimal vision and well-being. Regular eye check-ups and a proactive stance toward eye health contribute to long-term comfort and clarity of vision.