Something as simple as laughing or yawning can cause your eyes to water. Also spending too much time in bright light or in front of screens can also cause it. None of these is cause for much concern.
But producing too many tears can also be a harbinger of trouble. If you have watery eyes with vision changes, pain, a lump near the tear duct, or the feeling of something in your eyes that won’t go away, contact a medical professional. Also seek help if the tearing doesn’t go away.
Causes of watery eyes
There are several possible causes for watery eyes. It’s normal for your eyes to water in smoky environments or if you’re outside in the cold or wind. An eye injury or something in your eye, such as an eyelash or a piece of grit, can also make your eyes water.
Usually, glands in your eyelids secrete an oily substance that slows the evaporation of tears between blinks. When these glands don’t function properly, you may get dry patches on your eyes – known as dry eye syndrome. The patches become sore, and extra tears are produced as a reflex. This is the most likely cause of watery eyes.
Other possible causes include:
- The lower eyelid sagging away from the eye – this makes it difficult for tears to reach the drainage ducts
- Eyelids that roll inwards
- Inflammation of the edges of the eyelids
- Blocked or narrowed tear ducts
- Eye irritation (for example, from chemical fumes or grit)
- An eye infection, such as conjunctivitis
- An allergy
Babies often have watering eyes because their tear ducts are small. It usually gets better by the time they’re 1 year old.
The first symptom of watery eyes is an excess of tears. This can give the eyes a glassy look. Eventually, it may result in tears running or dripping from the eyes. Some excessive tear production is natural in cold or windy environments. It can also occur if a foreign body gets into the eye.
See a doctor if:
- your eyes keep watering and it’s stopping you doing everyday activities
- you experience any changes to your vision, such as loss of vision
- your eyelid is turning inwards or drooping away from your eye
- you have any lumps or swellings around your eyes
- your eyes are very sore or painful
- your baby’s eyes are sore, red or very watery
If your doctor can’t find what’s causing your eyes to water, they may refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for tests.
Treatment for watery eyes
Treatment may not be necessary if the watering isn’t causing problems. If treatment is needed, it’ll depend on what the cause is. For example:
- eye drops can help if your eyes are dry or infected
- medicines can help if you have an allergy
- anything in your eye (such as a piece of grit) can be removed
- a small operation may be needed if you have a problem with your eyelids or you have blocked tear ducts
You can treat some cases of watery eyes safely at home.Try remedies such as:
- take a break from reading, watching TV, or using the computer
- lubricate the eyes with eye drops to help relieve dry eyes or soothe eye irritation. They are available to purchase over-the-counter (OTC)
- hold a warm, damp cloth over the eyes and massage the eyelids to release any blockages