Watery Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Prevention

Tears lubricate and remove foreign particles and substances.

Although tears are essential for eye protection. The excessive tearing causes watery eyes.

The medical term used for watery eyes is epiphora , which means increased tears.

The tears that bathe the surface of the eye are produced by the lacrimal gland. This gland is located above and behind the upper eyelid.

When we blink, the eyelids press tears onto the surface of the eye, causing them to collect in the lower inner corner of the eye.

Later they go to the lacrimal sac and finally reach the nasolacrimal duct.

The latter connects to the eye and the nose and from there they go to the throat.

Causes of watery eyes

Watery eyes or spiphora occurs in two ways: either the tear duct is not working properly or the tear drainage system produces more tears than necessary.

Causes of watery eyes can include:

  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Blocked tear ducts.
  • Conjunctivitis .
  • Environmental irritants such as chemicals, smog, hot wind, bright lights, dust, and airborne allergens.
  • Blepharitis.
  • Abrasions
  • Strange bodies.
  • Allergies to mold, dust and other substances.
  • Eyelids turning in or out.
  • Aging.

One of the main causes of watery eyes is dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome causes discomfort in the eyes, which triggers the production of tears.

Your doctor will likely check for dry eye before moving on to other tests.

Watery eyes in babies

Babies have unusually watery eyes. This is because your tear ducts have not fully developed.

It can take weeks for a baby to start the tearing process, until the nasolacrimal duct is completely open.

Tear ducts in babies usually open in the first year of life.

When a baby has dacryostenosis, which is a condition where the ducts are not completely open, it is recommended to massage the area that lines the tear ducts to activate them.

The ophthalmologist can also initiate a procedure to open the ducts.

Symptoms of watery eyes

Additional symptoms that can accompany watery eyes are:

  • Irritated eyes.
  • Burning and itching in the eyes.
  • Strange sensation in the eyes.
  • Decreased visual acuity.
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Sneezing
  • Excessive secretion
  • Tenderness around the nose.
  • Red eyes.
  • Pain in the eyes, especially if trauma has occurred.
  • Crusting around the eyes, which means a blocked duct.

It is important to remember that watery eyes are not an emergency, it can be bothersome, but it can be easily treated.

Diagnosis of watery eyes

To diagnose watery eyes, an ophthalmologist will ask questions about the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and lifestyle.

The ophthalmologist will perform a complete eye exam and possibly a physical exam to determine the cause of the watery eyes.

They can also take a culture from a sample of a tear.

Typical treatments for watery eyes

First of all, it is very important to consider what causes excessive eye tear production before seeking any form of treatment.

Eye drops – This is what ophthalmologists are most likely to prescribe. Artificial tears can help remove irritants like dust that may be causing your eyes to tear up.

Using preservative-free artificial tears in individual disposable applicators is best. However, if the watery eye is due to too many reflex tears, the eye drops will only make the situation worse.

Eye drops and other over-the-counter medications help relieve watery eye discomfort. Over-the-counter topical allergy drops like Zaditor or Alaway might be the solution.

Treatment for irritation: If the irritating eye is caused by an eye infection and conjunctivitis, the ophthalmologist may prefer to wait a week to see if the problem resolves itself without antibiotics.

When the cause is allergic conjunctivitis, an antihistamine is usually prescribed to reduce inflammation. An ophthalmologist can prescribe allergy topical drops like Lastacaft or Bepreve for watery eyes and other allergies.

Treatment for Trichiasis: The ophthalmologist will remove any foreign objects or an inward-growing eyelash.

Treatment for ectropion: Correction of incorrect eyelid positions with minor surgery is an option. Surgery may be necessary to tighten the tendon that holds the outer eyelid in place.

Treatment of blocked tear ducts: When you experience discharge from the eyes, the cause could be a blocked tear duct or an eyelid problem. Your doctor may want to perform a drainage procedure or similar surgery to reduce symptoms.

Surgery may be necessary to create a new channel from the lacrimal sac into the nose so that tears bypass the blocked part of the tear duct. This surgical procedure is called a dacryocystorhinostomy.

If the drainage channels inside the eye, or canaliculi, are narrowed but not completely blocked, the doctor may use a tube to widen them. When the canaliculi are completely blocked, surgery may be required.

Treatment for watery eyes in babies: Most of the time, this condition resolves on its own within a few weeks. Sometimes a sticky fluid can form around the baby’s eyes. In such cases, a cotton ball soaked in sterile water can be used to clean the eyes.

Prevention of watery eyes

Watery eyes are due to a problem within the tear system. Therefore, it is important to take steps to ensure that the system never breaks down. Here are some tips to help you prevent watery eyes:

  • Blink regularly when using computers or watching TV, read, and take periodic breaks to rest your eyes and avoid eyestrain.
  • Use a humidifier at home or work.
  • Wear goggles to reduce sun exposure and protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays, to protect against airborne particles and debris, wind, and to reduce glare.
  • Drink lots of water to make lots of tears. The recommendation is 6 to 8 glasses per day.
  • Hands should be washed very often to protect themselves from germs.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes when they are irritated or have discomfort such as burning or itching.
  • Avoid contact with people with eye conditions.
  • Do not share objects that come into contact with the eyes such as: makeup, glasses, eye drops, sheets.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Avoid contact with known allergens. If it is absolutely necessary to be in contact with an environment that contains them, administer an oral thirty minutes before.

Many older people experience drier eyes as they age, which can lead to increased tear production.

Older people should see an ophthalmologist to detect any problems they experience before they get worse.