Watery Eyes or Epiphora or commonly called as tearing, is a condition in which there is an excessive overflow of tears over the face.There are various factors or conditions that lead to watery eyes or watering eyes. It happens when tears are excessively produced and don’t drain properly. Can affect one or both eyes. It is common at any age but mostly children between 0-12 years of age and older ones above 60 are found affected.
Commonly, tears play an important role to keep eyes healthy and lubricated. They help to remove foreign bodies or clear debris inserted in our eyes. But excessive watering may have an impact in an individual daily life.
What are the symptoms of watery eyes or tearing eyes?
Tearing is the normal functioning of our eyes. It helps to lubricate eyes. Basically, watering eyes is itself one of the symptoms for many eye conditions and disorders.
In certain conditions like foreign bodies entered in eyes, cold weather conditions or windy environments, tearing is considered as normal. But continuous excessive watering does not seem to be okay which can be a sign of an underlying health condition or disorder. Various Sign and Symptoms that are linked with excessive watering are :
- Sharp Eye Pain
- Blurred vision
- Enlarged blood vessels
- Light Sensitivity
- Eye infection and inflammation
- Runny Nose
- Redness and Swelling of eye
- Eye twitch
- Eye discharge
What are the causes of watering eyes or epiphora?
There are various factors or conditions for watering eyes. Several Infection, Irritation, allergies also contribute to watery eyes.
Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca(KCS) and is a condition of having dry eyes. Lets know about tear film first.
Understanding tear film
Tear film, protective coating that covers the normal ocular surface. It consists of three layers.
- Mucin layer, innermost layer which helps to attach tears to the eye surface and helps to nourish the cornea.
- Aqueous layer, middle layer that is composed of water and helps to lubricate eyes and clear the debris in the eye.
- Lipid layer, outer oily layer secreted by meibomian glands present in the edge of eyelids. Helps to prevent the evaporation of the tears.
Now coming to point, if there is any disorder of the tear film or ocular surface then Dry Eye Syndrome is observed.
When Eyes become dry, they get irritated which coach lacrimal glands( glands that secrete aqueous and help to lubricate eyes present underneath the upper eyelids of each eye) to produce so much tears. In this condition, the lacrimal gland produces even more tears to keep eyes moist. But this tears overflows.
Various Infections and Inflammations
Most of the infections and inflammations of the eyes also leads to watering eyes or epiphora. Various conditions are stated below.
- Conjunctivitis or pink eye (Inflammation of the thin and clear membrane covering the eye) : It is a common condition caused by bacterial or viral infection mostly. Wearing contact lenses also puts at greater risk of conjunctivitis which leads to watery eyes along with other symptoms too.
- Keratitis:Inflammation of cornea is keratitis. In this condition; symptoms like pain, redness, photophobia, white discharge and excessive watering is seen.
- Conditions like Stye, Chalazion, blepharitis, etc also lead to watery eyes.
- Similarly, Lacrimal glands Infection and inflammation also contribute watery eyes.
- Furthermore, Ingrown Eyelashes or trichiasis( inward growth of eyelashes instead of outside) can also interfere. It leads to irritation and watery eyes.
Tear Duct Obstruction OR Poor Drainage
Watery eyes or epiphora can be present if there are blocked tear ducts, narrow tear drainage openings or lax eyelids that cause the normal tear drainage pump to fail. Basically the pump is activated when we blink our eyes.
In infants, Mostly the watery eyes are often seen due to blocked tear ducts. Tiny openings(puncta) in the inner part of the lids near the nose allows the tears to drain normally. But within the several first months of life, the tear ducts may not be fully open or functioning well which leads to constant watery eyes.
Similarly, Nasolacrimal ducts located at the inner corner of each eye that helps to drain the tears can become blocked or narrowed which causes watery eyes. This can happen due to infection or inflammation.
Eyelids play an important role to ensure normal tear film and help to protect our eyes. Blinking helps to distribute tears in our eyes. If there are any changes in structure and proper functioning of eyelids then watery eyes is seen.
This type of disorder can happen naturally or after ocular trauma. Disorders like Entropion(condition in which eyelids folds inward), Ectropion(condition in which eyelids folds outward), Meibomian gland dysfunction(abnormality of meibomian glands),Exophthalmos(abnormal protrusion of eyeball), etc contributes to watery eyes.
Other various causes are
- Face or nose injury
- Excessive use of digital devices
- Chronic sinusitis
- Facial nerve palsy
- Foreign body in eye
- Some medications like topical blood pressure drugs, epinephrine can also cause watery eyes.
How watery eyes are diagnosed?
First of all, Eye care practitioners will ask a sort of question. They will ask if the patient has undergone any surgery or not along with a history of medications and any allergies.
They ask the duration of watering eyes and trauma history. Similarly, they may ask if there are any noticeable changes in vision. They may ask if you have been with anyone who has infection.
To rule out watering eyes, then professionals will properly examine eyes including eyelids(both upper and lower eyelids). If examiner suspects blocked tear ducts, tests will be carried out to determine the extent of blockage.
Sometimes Sinus Cavities and Nose Passages may also be examined. After all, performing examinations and various tests, professionals will determine if there are watering eyes.
How watery eyes are treated?
Generally, treatment is not required if it is not having any problems. It will go on its own. But sometimes treatment is required if it causes issues or affects daily life activities.
Treatment depends upon the severity of case, and factors causing watering.
Foreign body in eye : If foreign body is entered in the eye, flush it out with clean water or normal saline. Make sure you wash your hands properly before. Remove Contact lenses if wearing.
After all still if you are having pain, watery eyes and other symptoms, visit eye hospital or eye centers immediately.
If foreign body is seen under examination, the doctor will remove it and may prescribe medications depending upon the case.
Medications : Depending upon the cause and severity, the doctor will prescribe medications accordingly.
Blocked tear ducts : Sometimes, blocked tear ducts clear up on its own or with antibiotics. But if not clearing, practitioners will gently open the blocked ducts. Sometimes Surgery can also be done or recommended so as to open drainage.
Eyelid changes : If there are any problems with eyelids like entropion or ectropion is present. Then the doctor suggests eyelid repair.
In newly born infants: This problem will resolve itself in infants due to the fact that infant tear duct takes time to open fully. But make sure you clean their eyes properly.
How can you prevent watery eyes?
As watering eyes is itself a symptom of various infections and diseases or conditions.It is commonly seen. Usually it goes away on its own but sometimes causes serious issues.
Prevention is better than cure. So why not apply some preventive techniques or tips so as to prevent watery eyes. Let’s have a look for some tips.
- Make sure you wash your hands properly and regularly. Strictly avoid touching your face with your hands so as to prevent germs from spreading in your eyes.
- Do not try to remove foreign body entered in your eyes with your fingers.To remove it, you need to wash your eyes.
- If you are contact lens wearer, then you can be at higher risks of infection which eventually leads to watery eyes along with other complications. So make sure you follow each and every Care & Maintenance tips of contact lenses properly.
- Reduce eye strain by wearing protective eyeglasses while using digital devices and limit screen time.
- Wear protective sunglasses while you are outdoors and protect eyes from harmful UV rays and avoid watery eyes.
- Visit eye hospital or eye centers for regular check up.