Overview of watery eye or excess tearing
Tears serve several key roles in your body. They keep your eyes lubricated and help to wash away foreign particles and dust. They are also a component of your immune system that protects you against infection.
The glands under the skin of the upper eyelids produce tears, which contain water and salt. When you blink, the tears spread and keep your eyes moist. Other glands produce oils that prevent tears from evaporating too quickly or from leaking out of the eyes.
Tears are usually released through the tear ducts and then evaporate. When you make too many tears, they overwhelm your tear ducts and cause your eyes to fill with tears.
Most of the time, watery eyes resolve without treatment, but this condition can sometimes turn into a chronic problem. See your doctor if you have chronic eyes, especially if you have other symptoms.
Causes of watery eyes
It is common to produce extra temporary tears when you experience strong emotions, laughter, coughing, vomiting, or yawning.
Dry eye syndrome is the most common cause of watery eyes. Very dry eyes can give you extra tears. As your eyes receive proper lubrication, you will constantly produce abundant tears, which will continue the cycle.
If your tears do not contain the right balance of water, salt, and oils, your eyes can become too dry. The resulting irritation causes an overproduction of tears that spill out through your tear ducts.
Among other common causes are:
- Weather conditions such as dusty weather, wind, cold, and sunshine.
- Environmental factors such as bright light and smog.
- Common cold, sinus problems, and allergies.
- Inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis).
- Eyelid turned outward (ectropion) or inward (entropion).
- Ingrown eyelash (trichiasis).
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis) or other infections.
- Blocked tear ducts
- Chemicals, or irritating gases and liquids in the eye.
- Injury, such as a cut or scrape on the eye.
- Some prescription medications.
- Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.
When should you call a doctor?
The cause of your dry eyes will determine the best treatment. You should see a doctor or ophthalmologist if you have excessive or chronic tearing and any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of vision or visual disturbances.
- Injured or scratched eye
- Chemicals in your eye
- Discharge or bleeding from your eye
- Red, irritated, swollen, or sore eyes.
- Unexplained injuries around your eye.
- Tenderness around the nose or sinuses.
- Eye problems along with severe headaches.
- Watery eyes that don’t get better on their own.
How are dry eyes or excess tearing treated?
In most cases, excess tearing will clear up without treatment. If not, your physician or eye doctor will perform an eye exam or a physical.
Be prepared to answer questions about recent eye injuries and health conditions. Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you take.
Your doctor may also perform a test that determines if fluid can pass through the tear ducts.
Remedies for watery eyes include:
- Prescription eye drops
- Treating allergies that make your eyes watery
- Antibiotics if you have an eye infection
- A warm, wet towel placed on your eyes several times a day, which can help with blocked tear ducts.
- A surgical procedure to clear blocked tear ducts.
- Surgery to repair or create a new tear drainage system (dacryocystorhinostomy).
What are the possible causes of epiphora or excess tearing?
Foreign objects and injuries
When something gets into your eye, the resulting irritation suddenly blinks and you drink water to get it out. Dust, grime, or other materials can cause abrasions or scratches. A dirty or broken contact lens can scratch or injure the eye and cause epiphora. You may also experience discomfort, pain, or discomfort in the eye.
Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a common cause of excess tearing. This happens when your body reacts to harmless substances such as pollen, dust, and pet dander. Your immune system makes antibodies to these allergens, triggering an inflammatory response that causes red, swollen, and excess tearing.
Infection and inflammation
Infections and inflammation of the eyes and lids can cause excess tearing.
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is a common condition. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection in one or both eyes. As its name suggests, this condition causes inflammation of the blood vessels in the eye, which can appear pink or red.
- The cornea, the clear lens of your eye, is inflamed. This condition is called keratitis. Symptoms include pain, redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing, and white discharge.
- Infection or inflammation in the lacrimal or tear glands can cause inflammation and excessive tearing.
- Traumatic inflammation and watery eyes due to an ingrown hair infection.
- A stye looks like a pimple or whipped along the whip line. This painful red bump is usually caused by a bacterial infection of the sebaceous glands in the eyelid. Similarly, the chalazion is a small lump on the edge or lower part of the eyelid that is not painful.
- Blepharitis is a red and inflamed inflammation of the eyelids. This condition occurs when the sebaceous glands at the base of the hair are blocked.
- Trachoma is a serious bacterial infection of the eye. This contagious disease is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Symptoms of itching, swollen eyelids, pus, and epiphora.
Changes in the eyelids
Blinking the lids will help evenly wipe the tears from the eyes. Any change in the structure and function of the eyelids can cause excess tearing.
It can happen naturally or due to injury. The thin and wrinkled eyelids in the elderly accumulate tears, causing redness and prolonged tearing.
An ectopic eyelid separates from the eyeball. This prevents the tears from flowing properly. Inwardly twisted entropal eyelid. It causes pressure, scraping, and discomfort in the eye, stimulating the excess tearing.
How is the epiphora or excess tearing diagnosed?
Your doctor or ophthalmologist will examine your eyes and upper and lower eyelids to find the cause of the epiphora. An endoscope allows your doctor to look at the blood vessels behind your eye and check your eye pressure. It can also examine your nasal passages and sinus cavities.
If there is discharge or pus in the eye, it can be tested to see if you have a bacterial or viral infection.
Another test will check the chemical composition of your tears. A clinical study found that people with epiphora had fewer cells in their tears.
Outlook for watery eyes or excess tearing
Most cases with excess tearing are not serious and resolve without treatment. You should call your eye doctor immediately if you experience any change in your vision. Vision changes are a symptom of very serious eye problems that require immediate treatment.