Patients can experience eye tearing or watery eyes for multiple different reasons, some of the more frequent causes are described below.
Environmental Dryness and Weather Changes
Dry environments (as in the winter being indoor with the heater on), wind, pollens or allergens can cause dryness and irritation of the need of lubrication by producing more tears. In theses irritative situations sometimes the quality of the tear is not good enough to properly lubricate the eye, so the eye continues feeling irritated despite the tearing, this triggers the tear gland to keep producing excess of tears and patients to experience watery eyes.
In this situation the use of a good quality lubricant as over the counter artificial tears can improve the eye surface irritation and decrease the tearing.
This is another frequent cause of watery eyes. They use to be associated to other ocular symptoms as itchiness, redness, swelling.
Frequent eye rinse with saline or eye wash to minimize the contact of the eye surface with the allergens (pollens, dust, aerosols, etc…) can help to improve the symptoms. Over the counter antihistaminic can also be used to control the symptoms of allergies.
Hair spray, cleaning products, perfumes, and other environmental irritants can be the cause of eye irritations and subsequently trigger the tearing process. Avoid these products if they irritate your eyes. If you already present symptoms or any of these irritants accidently make contact with your eye, flush profusely your eyes with saline, eye wash or water. Adding some lubricants as over the counter artificial tears will help too.
Eye Infections and Pink Eye
In addition to watery eyes, swelling, redness, and discharge maybe present. See your eye doctor for a better evaluation and possible treatment. Therapeutic approach will be different if the infection is viral or bacterial.
Corneal scratches are really painful. In addition to tearing, patients may experience foreign body sensation, redness, or blurry vision. Corneal abrasion needs to be evaluated by your eye doctor ASAP because there is risk for infection. Normally they heal fast. Intense lubrication with artificial tears and topical antibiotics to prevent infection are used in their treatment.
Tear Duct Obstruction
Obstruction at any level of the tear duct drainage system can cause excess tearing. To assess the status of the patency of your tear duct, your eye doctor may perform a procedure called probe and irrigation of the tear duct. This is a simple procedure performed in the office where fluid is irrigated with a very thin canula in the entrance of the tear duct, located in the nasal edge of the inferior eyelid. If the tear duct is patent the patient will feel fluid coming to the nose and the throat.
Inflammation of the Eyelid
Blepharitis, styes, debris, and make up on the eyelids can cause irritation and subsequent tearing.
Eyelid hygiene and application of warm compresses can help to improve this eyelid inflammation and the tearing associated.
Droopiness, laxity of the eyelids, and other malposition of the eyelid edge can be the cause for the tear to not be properly canalized to the tear duct entrance located in the nasal side of the eyelid margin. Basically, the malposition of the eyelid cause, by gravity, the tear to drop to the face and not to run to the tear duct. In this case your eye doctor may recommend eyelid surgery to reposition the eyelid.