Tears keep your eyes lubricated and help to wash foreign objects and dust away. When you produce too many tears, they overwhelm your tear ducts, and you develop watery eyes.
Glands under the skin of your upper eyelids produce a liquid containing water and salt. When you blink, it spreads and keeps your eyes moist. Other glands produce oils that keep tears from evaporating too fast or from spilling out. Tears are normally discharged through your tear ducts and through evaporation.
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. Because your eyes are not receiving proper lubrication, you continue to produce an abundance of tears, which continues the cycle.
Blocked tear ducts, dust, wind, allergies, infection, and injury can also cause watery eyes.
Most of the time, watery eyes resolve without treatment, but the condition can sometimes become a chronic problem. Consult your doctor if you have a prolonged case of watery eyes, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
It is common to temporarily produce excess tears when you are emotional, laughing, or yawning. Among other common causes are:
- weather conditions such as wind, cold weather, and sunshine
- eye strain
- environmental factors such as bright light and smog
- the 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 infection
- blocked tear ducts
- foreign object or chemicals in the eye
- cut or scrape on the eye
- some prescription medications
- cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation
As strange as it sounds, one of the most prevalent reasons for watery eyes is dry eye syndrome. Extremely dry eyes can cause you to produce excess tears. If your tears do not contain enough of the right oils to lubricate your eyes, the cycle will continue.
Typically, watery eyes are temporary and resolve on their own when the cause is addresses or your eyes have healed. However, in some cases, the condition persists.
The reason for your dry eyes will determine the best treatment. Having watery eyes can be aggravating, but it is usually harmless. However, you should contact a physician or eye-care specialist if you have excessive or prolonged tearing and:
- you have vision loss or visual disturbances
- you have injured or scratched your eye
- you have chemicals in your eye
- there is discharge or bleeding from your eye
- you have a foreign object stuck in your eye on the inside of your eyelid
- your eyes are red, irritated, or painful
- there is unexplained bruising around your eye
- you are tender around your nose or sinuses
- your eye troubles are accompanied by a severe headache
- your watery eyes fail to improve on their own
In most cases, watery eyes will clear up on their own without treatment. If not, your physician or eye doctor will perform an eye exam and/or a physical. Be prepared to answer questions about recent eye injuries or health conditions. Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you take.
Your doctor may perform a test that determines if fluid can pass through the tear ducts.
Remedies for watery eyes include:
- prescription eye drops
- treatment for allergies that make your eyes watery
- antibiotics if you have an eye infection
- a warm, wet towel placed on your eye several times a day, which can help with blocked tear ducts
- a procedure to clear blocked tear ducts
- surgery to repair or create a new tear drainage system (dacryocystorhinostomy)