You mostly notice them when you’re crying–whether from laughter or sadness–but tears have many key functions in your body. They lubricate your eyes and help wash away dust and foreign particles. But apart from that, they also form an important component of your immune system, boosting your body’s protection against infections.
Tears are produced by the glands under the skin of your upper eyelids. They contain water and salt, and they typically spread and keep your eyes moist when you blink. Tears are discharged through your tear ducts and then they evaporate. There are glands in your body that produce oils to keep your tears from evaporating too quickly.
If you are producing too many tears, they may overwhelm your tear ducts, causing you to develop watery eyes. Watery eyes often resolve on their own, but there are particular conditions that could indicate a chronic problem. It’s always recommended to consult with an eye doctor to pinpoint the reason for your watery eyes.
Common Causes of Watery Eyes
It is normal to produce excess tears when you are emotional or when you are coughing, vomiting or yawning. However, if your eyes are consistently watery, you may be dealing with a specific condition.
Ironically, the most common reason for watery eyes is dry eye syndrome. Extremely dry eyes can cause your glands to produce excess tears. This happens because your eyes are not receiving adequate lubrication, signaling your body to produce excess tears — which then creates an abnormal cycle of tears production. Here’s what you need to know about dry eyes, along with other common causes of watery eyes.
Dry eyes usually occur when your tears don’t have the right balance of water, salt and oils. In some cases, it happens simply because your body is not making enough tears or the tears dry up too fast. Several factors can cause these issues, from dry, windy weather to various medical conditions.
Watery eyes are a common allergy symptom. They typically occur with a cough or runny nose as a response to triggers like pollen, mold or pet dander. It is best to avoid things that could trigger your allergies.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can make one or both of your eyes look pink or read and feel itchy. Infections with bacteria or viruses are the most common cause of this condition. For bacterial infections, you may need antibiotic eye drops, while viral infections will usually resolve on their own without medication.
Blocked Tear Duct
Tears normally flow out of your tear glands and spread across the surface of your eyeball. Then, they drain into the ducts in the corner. So if the ducts are clogged, tears tend to build up, making your eyes watery. Infections, injuries and the aging process are a few common causes of this problem.
Scratch on the Eye
Dirt and sand can scratch the outside of your eyeball. Wearing contact lenses also increases this risk. When your eye gets scratched, it tends to tear up, redden, hurt and become sensitive to light. These scratches usually heal within one or two days. But to ensure the safety of your eye, it’s best to have it checked by a doctor.
Eyelids help tears spread across your eye and sweep away extra moisture whenever you blink. That’s why any problem in your eyelids — such as entropion (when eyelids and lashes curve inward and rub against the eye) and ectropion (when eyelids and lashes sag outward) can compromise this function and trigger watery eyes.
Eyelashes can sometimes grow at a weird angle. For example, if they grow in instead of out, they will rub against your eye. This condition is called trichiasis, which can occur after injuries, infections or other problems. Your doctor may remove the eyelash or redirect it so that it points to the right direction.
A stye is typically caused by bacteria and can manifest as a swollen, red, painful lump along the edge of your eyelid. It can also make your eye water. A stye usually goes away on its own after a few days. In the meantime, the best thing to do is to avoid touching it. Never attempt to pop it as this will only spread the infection. However, you can use a warm washcloth on your eye to ease the pain.
Problems With Oil Glands
Meibomian glands are tiny glands located on the edge of your eyelid. They are responsible for making oils that keep your eye healthy and prevent your eyes from drying up too quickly. They also create a barrier to keep tears where you need them. Sometimes these glands get blocked and fail to produce enough oil, which can cause your eyes to get irritated and watery. Warm compresses on the eye are usually effective in helping the glands function normally again.
Blepharitis causes your eyelids to swell and your eyes to sting and become watery, itchy, red or crusty. Various things can cause this condition, such as rosacea, infections and allergies. Blepharitis can be treated, but it often comes and goes on its own.
Many other medical conditions can cause your eyes to become watery, including chronic sinus infections, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, Bell’s palsy and Sjorgen’s syndrome. Medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can also cause watery eyes as a side effect. Regardless of your suspected reason for your watery eyes, it is important to see your doctor. They can confirm why your eyes are tearing up and offer you appropriate treatment.
When to Call a Doctor
Of course, the reason why your eyes are too watery or too dry will determine the appropriate treatment for your condition. That is why you should call your doctor and ask them for advice, especially if you are experiencing excessive or prolonged tearing. Other symptoms that should prompt you to call your eye doctor include:
- Chemicals in your eye
- Bleeding or discharge from your eye
- Vision loss or visual disturbances
- Foreign object stuck in your eye
- Unexplained bruising around your eye
- Watery eyes that fail to improve on their own
- Eye issues accompanies by a severe headache
- Tenderness around your nose and sinuses
- Injured or scratched eye
Do not hesitate to seek the help of an eye specialist so that you can properly diagnose the problem and ensure the health of your eyes.
Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist ensures personalized and comprehensive eye care services for children and adults. We have expertise in various eye care services, and we also offer a range of vision correction options like eyeglasses and contacts. Call us at (703) 293-5222 or fill out our contact form to request an appointment. We serve customers in Gunston Heights and Woodbridge, VA.