Migraine can cause watery eyes either before or during an episode. This may be due to migraine’s effect on nerves that also affect your eyes. Other headache types, like cluster headache, can also cause watery eyes.

Migraine is a primary headache disorder known for recurring “attacks,” or episodes. These involve moderate to severe pain that usually affects one side of your head. It’s also possible to experience other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and temporary disruptions in vision.

Watery eyes are not a hallmark symptom of migraine, but some people do experience this. Facial pain from migraine can cause excess tearing. There’s also a link between migraine and dry eye syndrome, which can cause watery eyes.

But there could be other causes of your watery eyes with head pain. Some other types of headaches, such as cluster headaches, often cause watery eyes.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between water eyes and your headaches.

Left untreated, migraine symptoms may last between 4 and 72 hours. Aside from headache, other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to noise, odor, or light.

Eye (ocular) symptoms typically last less than 1 hour. But for about 1 in 5 people, they can last even longer than an hour. They also tend to affect one eye and develop on the same side as head pain.

With a retinal (or ocular) migraine, you might experience:

  • temporary loss of vision
  • increased sensitivity to light
  • a blind spot in one eye
  • seeing bright or flashing lights
  • seeing heatwave appearing visuals

Ocular symptoms of migraine may be related to aura. Commonly called migraine with aura, this is a phase of visual and neurological symptoms that usually occurs 10 to 60 minutes before you experience a headache. Experts believe it affects up to one-third of people with migraine.

Dry eye syndrome

While it may seem counterintuitive, dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes. Your eyes become so dry and irritated that your tear glands produce excess tears.

There may be a link between dry eye syndrome and migraine. A 2019 study found that people with migraine were 20% more likely to experience dry eye than those without migraine. A later 2021 study found that the link is five times stronger in people who experience migraine with aura.

Both of the above studies suggest that the link may be due to migraine’s effects on the trigeminal nerve. This large nerve provides sensation to your face and is involved in producing tears.

Sinus issues

Migraine may also affect the sinuses in your head. These are spaces behind your eyes and nose that help mucus drain from your nose. The trigeminal nerve also interacts with the sinuses, which is why the two may be connected.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, 45% of people with migraine experience sinus symptoms such as watery eyes or nasal congestion.

Due to the effects on the sinuses, many people call this a sinus headache. Research suggests that up to 90% of people who think they have sinus headache actually have migraine.

Migraine and cluster headache share similar symptoms, such as severe head pain and possible aura. But cluster headaches tend to be shorter in duration (about 15 to 120 minutes) and can occur multiple times per day.

Both migraine and cluster headache can cause watery eyes with severe head pain. But it’s more common in people with cluster headache. About 90% of people with cluster headache experience bloodshot or watery eyes.

With a cluster headache, you may have a teary, red, swollen eye that develops on the same side as your head pain. You may also have a runny nose.

Consider the following key differences and similarities in symptoms:

MigraineCluster headache
Sudden onset of symptoms
Head pain behind one eye
Pain on one side of the head
Watery eyes on the same side of head pain
Sensitivity to light
Drooping eyelid
Runny nose
Facial flushing
Sense of restlessness

Cluster headache is also three times more common in people assigned male at birth than in people assigned female. The opposite is true for migraine.

Other rare headache types

In addition to cluster headache, other rare types of headache may cause watery eyes. These include:

  • hemicrania continua
  • paroxysmal hemicrania
  • primary stabbing (“ice pick”) headache
  • short-lasting, unilateral, neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT)
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It’s possible your watery eyes may not be connected to your head pain. Other potential causes include:

Common triggers

Your environment or activities can sometimes trigger both migraine and watery eyes. Some shared triggers include:

  • bright lights
  • air quality
  • changes in weather or air pressure
  • eyestrain

To manage watery eyes from a headache, you first need to work with a doctor to help determine the underlying cause. This may involve a combination of medications and management techniques at home.


Medications to help treat or prevent headaches may include:

  • Prescription migraine treatment: These may alleviate symptoms, such as nausea and pain. Abortive treatments, such as pain relievers, are used in the case of an acute attack in both migraine and cluster headaches.
  • Triptans: A doctor may prescribe triptans to relieve headache pain due to migraine. Some formulas, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex), can also help with cluster headaches if you take them by injection or nasal spray.
  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors: Two types of anti-CGRP medications can help specifically with migraine. Monoclonal antibodies may help prevent migraine, while gepants may help relieve pain as they happen.
  • Botulinum toxin A: Also known as Botox, these injectable medications may help prevent chronic migraine in some people.
  • Hormone therapy: A doctor may recommend this option for people assigned female at birth who experience migraine attacks related to their menstrual cycles.
  • Other prescription medications: Certain drugs that doctors normally prescribe for high blood pressure, depression, and epilepsy may help some people with migraine, too.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics: OTC options such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve pain from migraine and other types of headaches.

Other medications depend on the exact cause of watery eyes. For example, if you have frequent watery eyes and sinus headaches due to allergies, a doctor might recommend an antihistamine or decongestant. These are available in both eye drop and oral formulas.

Home management

For frequent watery eyes, you may be able to use nonprescription eye drops at home for relief. These may include artificial tears for dry eye, which can help prevent your tear ducts from making extra tears.

Additionally, the following lifestyle modifications may help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches:

  • stress management
  • regular exercise
  • getting enough sleep
  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding any known personal triggers, such as caffeine or certain foods

Migraine is perhaps best known for painful throbbing and pulsing in the head. But it’s also possible to experience eye-related symptoms such as aura. You may also experience watery eyes, especially if you have migraine with aura.

Consider talking with a doctor if you’re experiencing recurring headaches and watery eyes. They may investigate other possible causes, such as cluster headache, allergies, or eye issues.

If you’re experiencing other eye symptoms, such as itching, burning, or redness, consider seeing a doctor right away. These may be signs of allergies, an infection, or another type of headache, such as SUNCT.