- The most common causes of watery eyes are allergies, infections, and irritants (such as smoke, dust, or wind).
- Other less common causes of watery eyes include dry eyes, blocked tear ducts, and stye.
- Watery eyes can also be a symptom of more serious conditions such as iritis, uveitis, or glaucoma.
Eyes watery, also known as epiphora or tearing, is a condition in which the eyes produce excess tears.
While this may seem like a harmless inconvenience, it can actually be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
Watery eyes can be caused by allergies, infections, or inflammation.
They can also be a side effect of certain medications.
In some cases, watery eyes may be a sign of an eye condition known as dry eye syndrome.
If you have watery eyes, it is important to see an ophthalmologist to rule out any serious underlying causes.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may involve artificial tears, eye drops, or surgery.
In today’s post, I’m sharing why your eyes might be watery, plus what you can do about it.
All are backed by science, of course.
Let’s get started…
Why are my eyes watery?
1. Something gets in your eye
When something gets in your eye, the first thing you probably do is blink.
Blinking helps to flush out the irritant and return your eye to its normal state.
However, sometimes blinking isn’t enough, and your eyes may water in an attempt to flush out the irritant on their own.
For instance, dust, dirt, an eyelash, smoke, or even substance in onion can all cause your eyes to water.
In most cases, this is a perfectly normal response and will go away on its own once the irritant has been removed.
2. Dry eyes
One possibility is that you have dry eyes.
Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep the surface of the eye lubricated.
This can lead to symptoms like watery eyes, as well as redness, a stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in your eyes, the Mayo Clinic explains. (3)
Dry eye is a common problem, particularly among older adults.
It can be caused by a variety of things, including medications, certain medical conditions, and environmental factors.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, treating dry eyes often involves using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops. (4)
You can also try to reduce your exposure to potential irritants, such as wind or smoke.
In some cases, you may need to use special eye ointments or take oral supplements.
If you’ve ever noticed your eyes watering for no apparent reason, it’s likely that you’re allergic to something in your environment.
Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that is usually harmless, such as pollen or dust.
When these substances come into contact with the eyes, they trigger the release of histamine, which leads to inflammation and increased production of tears. (5)
In addition to watery eyes, other symptoms of allergies may include itchiness, redness, and swelling.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to see an allergist to determine the cause and get relief.
While allergies can be annoying, there are many effective treatments available that can help you enjoy a symptom-free life.
4. Pinkeye (conjunctivitis)
Another possible reason your eyes may be watery is pinkeye or conjunctivitis.
Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, is a highly contagious viral infection that causes the membranes that line the inside of the eyelids to become inflamed and swollen.
In addition to watery eyes, pinkeye symptoms include redness, itching, burning, and a discharge that forms a crust over the eyelashes. (6)
While pinkeye is usually not serious, it can lead to more serious health problems if left untreated.
If you suspect you have pinkeye, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible for treatment.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help relieve your symptoms.
Try using artificial tears or a warm compress to soothe irritated eyes, and be sure to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes.
With proper treatment, pinkeye usually clears up within two weeks.
A stye is a bacterial infection of the oil glands in the eyelid.
It appears as a red, swollen lump and can be very painful.
The good news is that styes are usually not serious and will go away on their own within a week or two. (7)
There are several things you can do to help speed up the healing process and relieve symptoms.
First, try to avoid touching or rubbing the affected area.
This will only make the stye worse.
Second, apply a warm compress to the area for 10-15 minutes several times a day.
This will help to reduce swelling and pain.
Finally, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
If the stye does not go away within two weeks or if it interferes with your vision, you should see a doctor.
6. Eyelid problems
One common culprit is eyelid problems.
When the eyelids aren’t functioning properly, they can’t protect the eye from irritants like dust and pollen, which can cause the eye to water.
In addition, the eyelids may not be able to close completely, leading to dryness and irritation.
Eyelid problems can also cause the production of excess tears, which can overflow and cause watery eyes.
7. Scratch your eye
When you have a scratch on your eye, your body’s natural response is to produce tears.
This is because tears help to wash away any foreign objects that may be present on the surface of the eye.
In addition, tears contain antibodies that can help to protect the eye from infection.
However, sometimes a scratch on the eye can cause an overproduction of tears.
This can lead to watery eyes and a sensation of burning or itching.
8. Blocked tear ducts
When the tear ducts become blocked, tears are unable to drain properly and build up in the eye, causing watery eyes.
Blocked tear ducts can be caused by a number of things, including allergies, an infection, or a structural problem with the ducts themselves.
If you suspect that your watery eyes are due to blocked tear ducts, it is important to see a doctor so that they can recommend the best course of treatment.
In some cases, blocked tear ducts can be cleared using medical interventions such as surgery or a course of antibiotics.
9. Bell’s palsy
If you suddenly develop watery eyes and facial paralysis on one side of your face, it could be a sign of Bell’s palsy.
Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes temporary paralysis of the muscles in the face.
It is thought to be caused by damage to the seventh cranial nerve, which controls the muscles on that side of the face.
The exact cause of this damage is unknown, but it is often associated with viral infections like colds or the flu.
In most cases, Bell’s palsy resolves on its own within a few weeks or months.
If you develop sudden onset watery eyes and facial paralysis, it’s important to see a doctor right away so they can rule out Bell’s palsy or other serious conditions.
Many other conditions can cause watery eyes, including:
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Chronic sinus infections
- Thyroid problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis