Watery eyes

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Definition

Watery eyes (epiphora) tear persistently or excessively.

Depending on the cause, watery eyes may clear up on their own. Self-care measures at home can help treat watery eyes, particularly if caused by inflammation or dry eyes

Causes

Watery eyes can be due to many factors and conditions.

In infants, persistent watery eyes, often with some matter, are commonly the result of blocked tear ducts. The tear ducts don’t produce tears, but rather carry away tears, similar to how a storm drain carries away rainwater. Tears normally drain into your nose through tiny openings (puncta) in the inner part of the lids near the nose. In babies, the tear duct may not be fully open and functioning for the first several months of life.

In older adults, persistent watery eyes may occur as the aging skin of the eyelids sags away from the eyeball, allowing tears to accumulate and flow out.

Sometimes, excess tear production may cause watery eyes as well.

Allergies or viral infections (conjunctivitis), as well as any kind of inflammation, may cause watery eyes for a few days or so.

Medication causes

  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Epinephrine
  • Eyedrops, especially echothiophate iodide and pilocarpine

Common causes

  • Allergies
  • Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation)
  • Blocked tear duct
  • Common cold
  • Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Dry eyes (decreased production of tears)
  • Ectropion (outwardly turned eyelid)
  • Entropion (inwardly turned eyelid)
  • Foreign object in the eye: First aid
  • Hay fever
  • Ingrown eyelash (trichiasis)
  • Keratitis
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Sty
  • Tear duct infection
  • Trachoma

Other causes

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Blow to the eye or other eye injury
  • Burns
  • Chemical splash in the eye: First aid
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Radiation therapy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Surgery of the eye or nose
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Tumors affecting the tear drainage system
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis)

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