Watery eyes are not usually something you need to be concerned about but it can be annoying when you feel that you are constantly dabbing your eyes with a tissue. Tears are essential for the nourishment and lubrication the human eye. Whenever you blink, you’re washing your eyes with tears produced by the lacrimal glands in your upper eyelids. These glands respond to irritation and inflammation by producing extra tears.
While tears normally drain out of your eye and into the nose through ducts located in the corners or your eyes, people with watery eyes are probably experiencing an overproduction of tears. The following are some of the causes of watery eyes and what you can do about it.
Even though it doesn’t seem to make sense, dry-eye syndrome often leads to watery eyes because, when eyes dry out, they become irritated and uncomfortable causing the lacrimal glands to produce so many tears as to overwhelm the eye’s natural drainage system. Because dry eyes are more common in older adults, tear production tends to lessen with age. However, the most common cause is a chronic condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). This condition means that tears don’t contain enough water.
Milder cases of dry eyes can be treated with over-the-counter artificial tears, but prescription drugs may also be prescribed.
A reaction to allergens can cause your eyes to become red and irritated, prompting excess tear production, itching and burning. Common allergens are grass, trees, weed pollens, pet dander, dust mites and molds. Exhaust fumes, aerosol sprays, perfumes and cigarette smoke, although not true allergens can also cause allergic-like symptoms.
Prescription and over-the-counter medicated eye drops can help treat itchy, swollen eyes caused by an allergy.
Your body’s response to an eye infection can include producing excess tears in an effort to keep the eye lubricated and wash away germs and other discharge. Two infectious diseases known to cause watery eyes are conjunctivitis (pink eye) and blepharitis, an infection of the eyelid margins.
Wearing contact lenses may increase the risk of conjunctivitis, which can occur in one or both eyes. It can be caused by bacteria, fungi or, more commonly, viruses. Along with excess tearing, other symptoms of pink eye include:
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Gritty feeling
- Crusts forming overnight
A prescription is usually needed to treat pink eye.
Your eyes may produce too many tears in response to other types of irritants such as dry air, bright light, wind, smoke, dust, an eyelash or exposure to chemicals. Eyestrain can also cause watery eyes.
Tear Duct Blockage
A blockage of the ducts that normally drain away tears can also cause watery eyes, although this is less common. Such a blockage is called lacrimal stenosis. Infections can spread into the lacrimal duct from the inside of the nose and cause scarring. Other causes of lacrimal duct blockage are trauma and surgery.
Poor Eyelid Function
Eyelids need to close properly in order to spread tears evenly over the eyes and be pushed to the corners for proper drainage. A drooping and pulling away of the lower eyelid is called ectropion, generally seen in older people who gradually develop a weakness of the lower eyelid. The condition can cause eyes to be dry, sore, red and burning and there’s an increased risk of eye infection.
If over-the-counter eye drops aren’t working for you, seek medical help.