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What causes watering eyes? 14 possible conditions

Watery Eyes

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.

Causes of Watery Eyes

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.

What to Do About Watery Eyes

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)

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is when exposure to allergens (such as mold spores or pollen) cause your eyes to become watery, red, and itchy.

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Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis, or "pink eye," is an infection or swelling in the eye area that causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, giving the eye a red or pink color.

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Common Cold Overview

The common cold is a virus that involves symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and a headache. Learn the causes, symptoms and treatments for the common cold now!

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Corneal Abrasion

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A minor scratch to the eye's cornea is called a corneal abrasion. It can be caused by dust, contact lenses, or other foreign objects, and can sometimes develop into a serious eye condition.

Read more »


Allergies Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An allergy is the immune system's response to a foreign substance (allergen) that is not typically harmful to a person's body. This attack response may involve inflammation, sneezing, and a host of other symptoms.

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Corneal Ulcer

A corneal ulcer is an open sore that forms on the cornea. It's usually caused by an infection. Even small injuries to the eye can lead to infections.

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Scleritis is severe inflammation of the sclera, the eye's outer protective layer. It usually causes pain, and can sometimes cause vision loss.

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Eyelid Turned In (Entropion)

Entropion is when your eyelid rotates inward, causing irritation, abrasion, and redness. It is common in older people, but it can also be congenital or caused by chemical burns, tracoma, or herpes zoster ophthalmicus.

Read more »


External Eyelid Stye (Hordeolum Externum)

An external eyelid stye is an inflamed area or bump on the eyelid. The medical term for a stye is hordeolum externum . Styes are red, painful lumps (most look like pimples) near the edge of the eyelid, where th...

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Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is your body's response to specific allergens. It causes uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes.

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A chalazion is a small bump that appears on your eyelid because of a blocked oil gland. It usually disappears on its own within a month.

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Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis)

Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelash follicles. Its cause is unclear, but allergies, mites, dandruff, and certain medications may increase the likelihood of this form of inflammation.

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Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are severely painful headaches that occur in cycles. They start suddenly and occur on one side of the head. Additional symptoms include face and eye redness and nausea.

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Reactive Arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)

Reiter's syndrome produces inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints due to infection elsewhere in the body. Symptoms include mouth ulcers, painful urination, and urethral discharge.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.