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Why Are My Eyes Watery?

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Young woman rubbing watery eyes with both hands

Have you recently found your eyes watering unexpectedly? If so, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Watery eyes can affect people at any age, and numerous factors can cause them. It might sound strange, but watery eyes can even result from dry eye disease!

Visiting your eye doctor for an exam is the best way to determine why your eyes are watering, but we’ve provided some possible explanations below to help you get started. Read on to learn more about what causes watery eyes and inform yourself before reaching out to your optometrist.

Poor Drainage or Excessive Tearing? 2 Culprits Behind Watery Eyes

There are two main reasons that a person’s eyes might water: either their tear ducts are blocked, or their eyes are producing too many tears. However, either of these scenarios can result from various conditions, and some conditions (like dry eye disease) can cause both.

Blocked Tear Ducts

Blocked tear ducts are a commonly misunderstood reason for watery eyes. Many people assume that the tear ducts exist to produce tears, but that isn’t true. The tear ducts exist to drain tears into your nose through tiny holes called puncta. If the tear ducts are blocked, the eyes may water instead.

Crying baby with watery eyes

Newborn babies often experience watery eyes due to blocked tear ducts. Their eyes typically begin to produce tears after only two weeks, but their tear ducts may not open until they are seven or eight months old. Until the tear ducts can drain moisture properly, the infant’s eyes will likely water instead.

Adults may also experience blocked tear ducts since the puncta become narrower with age. Inflammation (a common cause of dry eye disease), injury, and certain medications or medical treatments can also create blockages in a person’s tear ducts.

Tear Overproduction

There are many different reasons why a person’s eyes could produce too many tears. However, dry eye disease is one of the most common. Dry eye causes irritation that can provoke reflex tearing, causing a person to cry more frequently than usual.

Several other conditions can also cause a similar kind of irritation to that of dry eye disease. These include:

  • Eyelid inflammation or blepharitis, which can also lead to dry eyes
  • Conjunctivitis (either allergic, infectious, or chemical)
  • Common cold complications
  • Physical damage to the cornea (from a scratch or a foreign object lodged in the eye)
  • A stye or ulcer
  • Hay fever
  • Keratitis
  • And more

Visiting an optometrist is the best way to find out why your eyes are producing too many tears. Your eye doctor will also be able to recommend a course of treatment for you, based on the reasons for your watery eyes.

Common Treatments for Individuals with Watery Eyes

Many patients come to us to learn more about why their eyes are watering. In many cases, we find that a patient’s watery eyes result from dry eye disease. However, other treatments are available for people whose eyes water for different reasons.

Treating Dry Eye Disease

We treat dry eye disease in numerous ways. Some of the most effective methods include:

  • Blephex: this medical device allows an optometrist to remove debris from the eyelashes and eyelids. Cleaning these areas can reduce inflammation in patients whose dry eyes have been caused by blepharitis.
  • Xiidra: these eye drops help your body regulate specific proteins that may cause dry eyes by disrupting the delicate balance of substances required for healthy tear production.
  • Restasis: these prescription eye drops include cyclosporine, an anti-inflammatory that can help treat dry eye disease’s underlying causes.
  • Punctal Plugs: sometimes, dry eye disease occurs when a person’s puncta drain their tears too quickly. In these cases, we insert tiny plugs into the puncta to prevent drainage so the eye can moisten adequately again.

Even people whose tears drain too quickly can experience watery eyes. The irritation associated with dry eye can provoke more reflex tearing than their tear ducts can drain. The result can be a person whose eyes are uncomfortably dry between bouts of frequent crying.

Treating Other Causes of Watery Eyes

Your optometrist may recommend other treatments for watery eyes caused by:

  • Conjunctivitis: eyecare professionals may use antibiotics to reduce inflammation caused by conjunctivitis. However, they typically wait a week or so first to see if symptoms decrease naturally.
  • Foreign objects: if an item is stuck in your eye and causing it to water, your eye doctor will take it out safely. Foreign objects may include ingrown eyelash hairs.
  • Styes or ulcers: your optometrist can help drain a stye to reduce the discomfort it causes. Corneal ulcers can require medications or surgeries, depending on their severity.

Talk to Your Eye Doctor about Watery Eyes

Many different factors can lead to watery eyes, so it’s best to consult your optometrist instead of diagnosing the cause yourself. Qualified eye care professionals have the resources and experience necessary to tell you exactly why your eyes are watering and what to do about it.

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  • Written by Myles Bokinac

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