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Watery Eyes - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Watery Eyes - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

4 min read


Do you always tear up? Did you know it can be due to an underlying medical condition? Learn about the different causes and treatment options for watery eyes.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Published At March 17, 2020
Reviewed AtSeptember 29, 2022

Tears keep your eyes lubricated and flushes dust and foreign agents. They are also a part of the immune system and protect the body against infection. Tears contain water, salt, oil, and antibodies, and are produced by the tear glands (lacrimal glands) under the upper eyelids. The tears that are produced by the gland gets spread over your eyes when you blink, which helps keep the eyes moist. Other glands that are present in the eyes produce oils. These oils prevent tears from evaporating too fast and also prevents it from spilling out of the eyes.

Watery eyes, apart from crying, is a sign of an underlying condition. Tears are crucial to prevent damage to the outer transparent layer of the eye (cornea) from becoming dry and inflamed. Generally, tears that are produced by the tear ducts get evaporated and flow to the nose through tiny ducts (puncta) near the nose. When these ducts get blocked, tears get accumulated in the eye and fall off. The tear ducts can get blocked due to infection and inflammation, or in conditions such as sarcoidosis, trauma, lymphoma, and radiotherapy. In most cases, watery eyes get better on their own, but sometimes it can become a chronic condition.

What Are the Symptoms Associated With Watery Eyes?

Some of the symptoms that are associated with watery eyes are:

  • Eye pain.

  • Swollen eyes.

  • Eye redness.

  • Feeling of foreign body in the eye.

  • Reduced vision.

What Can Cause Watery Eyes?

The following are some of the common causes of watery eyes:

  1. Allergies - Pollen, mites, dust, and chemical fumes can make your eyes itchy, red, and watery. The doctor will prescribe antihistamine eye drops if your eyes are watery due to allergy.

  2. Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye) - It is a type of inflammation of the eyes, where your eyes become pink or red with excessive tears. Some of the other signs include vision problems and pus discharge. It is caused by infection due to viruses, bacteria, etc. The doctor might prescribe antibiotics drops.

  3. Dry Eyes - As contradictory as it sounds, dry eyes can also result in watery eyes. When your eyes are dry, the immune system responds to it by producing a lot of tears. It can cause a stinging and burning sensation, vision problems, and redness. Artificial tears eye drops can be used.

  4. Tear Ducts Blockage - When the ducts that carry tears from the eyes to the nose get blocked or narrowed, tears pool in the eyes and cause excessive watering. It can sometimes cause eye irritation, infection, mucus discharge. The doctor will check the blocked ducts by irrigating with saline. If the duct is blocked, it has to be opened by surgery by creating a false opening.

  5. Droopy Eyelids - As your eyelid is a part of the eyes’ drainage system, even when either of the eyelids sags, tears do not drain properly. This can make your eyes feel watery. If the eyelids grow inwards, they rub against the eyes and cause irritation, redness, light sensitivity, and watering. The doctor might prescribe artificial tears, Botox injection, or you might need surgery to fix this problem.

  6. Eyelids turn outward (Ectropion) - It is a condition that results in the lower eyelid turning outwards.

  7. Eyelid Bump - The two conditions that can cause eyelid bump are stye or chalazion. Styes are big and painful, while chalazion is usually painless. To relieve pain due to an eyelid bump, apply a hot and clean washcloth over your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes, and repeat it 3 to 4 times a day. The doctor might prescribe antibiotics, steroids, or will drain the bump (if it is big).

  8. Ingrown Eyelashes (Trichiasis) - Eyelashes hair when grow inward, rub and irritate the eye. This causes irritation, watering, and can also scratch the cornea. The doctor might pull or the inwardly grown eyelash.

  9. Corneal Abrasion and Ulcer - The cornea can get injured, which can result in minor scratches to open sores or ulcers. The cornea can also get inflamed (keratitis). All these conditions can make your tears flow excessively. Corneal abrasion or scratch makes your eyes red, painful, watery, and very sensitive to light. Corneal ulcers need immediate treatment, or else it can lead to eyesight problems or blindness. Keratitis is common in people who use contact lenses for long or overnight.

  10. Other causes include:

  • Bell’s palsy - a neurological condition that results in paralysis of one side of the face.

  • Injury to the eye.

  • Chemical exposure.

  • Sjogren’s syndrome.

  • Sarcoidosis.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

  • Facial surgery.

  • Thyroid disorders.

There are many other causes for your watery eyes, and proper diagnosis is crucial. Always consult a doctor to know the cause and for proper treatment.

Babies and Watery Eyes:

This condition normally resolves in a few weeks without any treatment in newborns. If a sticky liquid is formed around your baby’s eyes, you can remove it using a piece of cotton that is soaked in sterile water (water that is boiled and cooled down). Antibiotic eye drops are started and massage therapy is suggested for up to 1 year. If it does not improve, then surgery has to be done to correct tear duct blockage.

When to Consult a Doctor for Watery Eyes?

If you have excessive tearing along with the following symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor:

  • Visual problems.

  • Bleeding or eye discharge.

  • If you feel something is stuck in your eye.

  • Pain around the nose and sinuses.

  • Severe headache.

  • Eyes are red, swollen, and painful.

  • Bruising around your eye.

  • Eye injury.

  • Chemical injury to the eye.

What Are the Treatment Options for Watery Eyes?

There are various treatment options for watery eyes, depending on the cause and severity. Mild cases without any underlying systemic cause resolve on its own in a while. The other treatment options include:

Home Remedies:

  • Avoid reading, using a computer, and watching TV.

  • Keep your eyes well lubricated with artificial tears.

  • Keep warm and damp cloth over the eyes.

  • Gently massage the eyelids.

Medical Treatment:

  1. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics if the cause is infective conjunctivitis.

  2. The doctor will remove any inwardly grown eyelashes.

  3. For ectropion, the doctor will suggest you get a surgery that will make the outer eyelid tighter, which will hold it in place.

  4. And for tear duct blockage, surgery is done to create a new passage for tears to drain to the nose.

To know the exact cause of why your eyes are watering so much, consult a doctor online now!

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Various Causes of Watery Eyes?

Watery eyes occur due to any irritation or inflammation of the eyes. The most common cause is dust allergy. It can also be caused by conditions such as corneal abrasion and conjunctivitis. The blockage in the tear ducts can also cause watery eyes.


How Can I Get Rid of Watery Eyes?

The following are the treatment methods for watery eyes.
- Topical eye drops to relieve the inflammation and irritation.
- Antibiotics can be given if the affected person has an ongoing bacterial eye infection.
- A warm compress on the eye, which usually helps in providing relief from blocked tear ducts.
- A surgical procedure to treat nasolacrimal duct's blockage, if present.


Is There Any Natural Remedy for Watery Eyes?

The following are various natural remedies for watery eyes:
- Warm compress.
- Use of coconut oil around the eyes. This method can soothe the irritation.
You can also use tea bags that are soaked in warm water in your eyes.
- This method has also been noted to provide significant relief.


What Is the Best Way Of Treating Watery Eyes?

Oral antihistamines are the best mode of treatment for patients who are suffering from watery eyes. The most commonly used antihistamines are Cetirizine and Loratadine. However, these drugs should not be used without proper advice from the doctor as they have potential side effects.


Is Glaucoma Associated With Watery Eyes?

Yes, watery eyes are associated with glaucoma. If the symptoms like double vision and watery eyes are not associated with any allergy, then they are the early signs of glaucoma.


Is Watery Eyes a Sign of Diabetes?

When diabetes gets complicated, it can cause diabetic retinopathy. Watery eyes are one of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Other predominant symptoms of this condition are headaches, eye aches, pain, and blurred vision.


What Are the Eye Drops That Can Be Used for Watery Eyes?

Antihistamine eye drops are the best drops that can help you if you have a watery eye. They provide relief most of the time. However, if your symptoms are severe, you would need an eye doctor to prescribe stronger eye drops or oral medications.


Do Cataract Patients Have Watery Eyes?

A cataract is a condition that prevents the light from easily passing through the lens. This causes symptoms like the loss of eyesight. Early symptoms include redness and tearing in the eye.


Can Eye Drops Relieve Watery Eyes?

Yes, eye drops can relieve the symptoms of watery eyes. But if you are frequently getting watery eyes, it might be due to any serious underlying condition. So by then, consult a doctor for proper treatment and avoidance of unnecessary complications.


How Long Do Watery Eyes Take to Cure?

Normally, if your watery eyes have an underlying cause like allergic rhinitis, it usually resolves within two to three weeks. But other severe causes like diabetic retinopathy can take a longer period. In those cases, it can be cured only when the underlying disease goes away.


What Are the Various Diseases That Present With Watery Eyes?

The following are the diseases that present with watery eyes:
- Bell's palsy.
- Sjogren's syndrome.
- Chronic sinus infections.
- Thyroid problems.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.


Which Condition Causes Eye Stinging and Watering?

Certain diseases like the ocular rosacea, dry eyes, and blepharitis can present with burning eyes symptoms. However, any condition that causes inflammation can lead to a burning sensation of the eye. Eye allergies, bacterial or viral infections of the eye, can cause stinging eyes and watering.


Can Common Colds Make My Eyes Water?

Yes, common cold causes tearing of the eyes. It is mainly due to an anatomical structure known as the nasolacrimal duct. This structure connects the tear duct to the nose. So any condition affecting the nose can cause tearing, and any condition affecting the eyes can cause a runny nose.


Should I Worry If My Eye Keeps Watering?

Yes, if your watery eyes do not resolve on oral antihistamines or topical eye drops, you need to seek medical attention because some serious conditions might be causing it. So you must have a consultation with an ophthalmologist to avoid complications.


How Are Watery Eyes in Kids Treated?

Ketotifen is one of the topical antihistamine eye drops. It is very safe to use. For three years old patients, the drops can be given once every day for the treatment for itchy or watery eyes. It is essential to consult the doctor, as these drugs can cause specific side effects. Also, the doctor can help you with the right method of drug administration to avoid complications.
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Dr. Prashant Koranmath
Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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