What Are the Causes of Watery Eyes?

10 October, 2020
There are several causes of watery eyes. Some are associated with external agents and others may suggest a need for immediate medical attention.

As its name suggests, watery eyes involves excessive tearing. Believe it or not, it’s possible for there to be more fluid than necessary in this area of the body.

We all know that the eye requires lubrication in order to stay healthy. However, sometimes the liquid that the tear glands produce can’t make it’s way out. This is due to a blockage of the tear duct that goes to the nose, which causes the liquid to overflow onto the eyelids.

What are the different types of watery eyes?

We can classify the types of watery eyes according to the affected population. In general, babies and adults are the most likely to suffer from excess tearing.

Watery eyes in babies

Although this condition is very common in babies, it’s important to be attentive in order to avoid further complications. Often, the causes of watery eyes in babies have to do with a small blockage of the tear duct or the appearance of conjunctivitis.

However, this condition can also occur when your baby has a cold, allergies, or a scratch on their eye. Therefore, if the tearing persists, you should consult your pediatrician. He or she will clear up any doubts and apply the necessary treatment.

Although less frequent, this disorder can also affect young children. In this case, they may suffer corneal alterations if, in addition, a reddish coloring of the eyes accompanies the excess of tears.

An eye with a tear drop falling down.
Tears have a protective function in the eye. However, if they’re excessive, then they become counterproductive.

Read more: Tips on How To Have Healthier Eyes

Tearful eyes in adults

In the case of adults, the causes of watery eyes are diverse. However, obstruction of the tear duct remains the most common. In addition, there are other associated conditions:

  • Eye fatigue caused by the excessive use of technological devices.
  • Extreme dryness of the eye that stimulates the formation of tears to compensate.
  • Difficulties associated with advanced age.

Causes of watery eyes

The constant tearing caused by this disorder is annoying. That’s because it usually involves redness of the eyelid, irritation, swelling, and burning in the area as well. Even so, the important thing is to identify the cause in order to start specific treatment, ruling out further complications.

Obstruction of the tear duct

As we explained at the beginning of the article, lacrimal glands are responsible for producing tears. Their function is to keep the eye clean and lubricated. In the case of any excess fluid, it must be evacuated through the tear duct that ends inside the nose.

When obstruction of this path occurs, the tears have no way to evacuate and they overflow toward the eyelids. This is what’s happening when our eyes seem to tear up for no reason.

Specialists know this pathology as chronic dacryocystitis. This can be an acquired condition and refers to the narrowing of the ducts due to aging. There is also a congenital variant that frequently affects babies.

Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome has its origin in hormonal alterations, in the case of women, and also in the high levels of air pollution. Some of the symptoms are burning, itching, photophobia, a feeling that the eye is dirty, and heaviness of the eyelids.

Another of the most common signs, despite the fact that this disease is related to insufficient tears, is a watery eye. This happens because the glands are over-stimulated as a protection mechanism, producing an excess of liquid.

Eye fatigue

Also known as eye fatigue syndrome, this disorder falls into the category of occupational diseases. It involves several symptoms, among which we find the watery eyes.

It’s also associated with the excessive use of electronic devices, something very common these days with the advent of teleworking. This condition is cataloged within the digital visual syndromes and can affect the ocular surface producing abundant tearing.

Conjunctivitis

This is one of the most common eye diseases. It affects people at any stage of life and, although it causes quite a bit of discomfort, it’s very easy to treat.

Among the most common symptoms of this pathology that affects the conjunctiva (the imperceptible membrane that covers the eye), we find the watery eye, inflammation, redness, and also the secretion or accumulation of rheum.

Photophobia

Photophobia is a sign caused by the inability to withstand the intensity of light, whether artificial or natural. It’s a pathology that greatly affects people with albinism and light-colored eyes.

Symptoms include watery eyes, the need to keep eyes closed, burning, and redness. It can even lead to dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Find out more: 5 Effective Remedies for Eye Infections

Other common and mild causes

In addition to the above-mentioned conditions, watery eyes are also associated with allergies, such as rhinitis, but also with flu, laughter, yawning, and even vomiting. In any of these cases, the excess of tears is not a concern, since it’s due to an external reaction.

An irritated eye.
There are many causes of watery eyes; some are less complicated and others are serious.

When to consult a medical professional?

It’s important to seek medical attention when observing that the causes of the watery eyes are related to conjunctivitis. This is because it can be viral and contagious. Also, when there’s no apparent cause and the discomfort persists for more than a week. Similarly, when the symptoms are present continuously.

In any of the cases, it’s easy to control this eye condition. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical attention to initiate the corresponding treatment. Excessive tearing not only represents an obstacle when it comes to quality of life, but also affects our vision.

  • Barrau, C., Cohen-Tannoudji, D., Villette, D. “Un nuevo reto científico: La preservación del riesgo.” (2014).
  • Naranjo Escobar, M., Macas Quevedo, C., Pacheco Buitron, M., Piedrahita León, J. “Obstrucción del conducto nasolagrimal: abordaje quirúrgico endonasal versus externo”. Revista Científica Mundo de la Investigación y el Conocimiento (2019).
  • Prado Montes, A., Morales Caballero, A., Molla Cassia, J. “Síndrome de Fatiga ocular y su relación con el medio laboral”. Med. segur. trab.  [Internet]. 2017  Dic [citado  2020  Sep  17] ;  63( 249 ): 345-361. Disponible en: http://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0465-546X2017000400345
  • Aguilera Mosquera, H., Valarezo Paccha, L. “La pantalla digital y sus alteraciones visuales”. [Machala]: Universidad Técnica de Machala, 2015. [consultado 16 sep 2020]. Disponible en: http://186.3.32.121/handle/48000/13713
  • Gálvez Tello, JF., Lou Royo, MJ., Andreu Yela, E. “Ojo seco: diagnóstico y tratamiento”. (1998).
  • Clement Corral, A., Dureau, P., Clement Corral, S., Valls Ferran, I., Andrés Domingo, M.L. “el ojo rojo en la pediatría”. (2018).
  • Morales Marín, D., Zepeda Ortega, B., Mendieta Alcántara, G. “Epidemiología y tratamiento de conjuntivitis alérgica en un hospital pediátrico”. (2010).
  • Agramonte Centelles, I., Herrera Soto, M., Gómez Cabrera, C., Padilla González, C. “Efectividad de la cirugía ambulatoria en la dacriocistitis crónica”. Rev Cubana Oftalmol  [Internet]. 2004  Jun [citado  2020  Sep  16] ;  17( 1 ). Disponible en: http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0864-21762004000100004
  • Mayorga MT. Película lagrimal: estructura y funciones. Cienc Tecnol Salud Vis Ocul. 2008;(11): 121-131. Disponible en: https://ciencia.lasalle.edu.co/svo/vol6/iss11/13/
  • Pérez, Valentín Viqueira, Dolores de Fez, and Francisco M. Martínez Verdú. “La ergonomía visual en el puesto de trabajo: rendimiento y seguridad visual.” Gestión práctica de riesgos laborales: Integración y desarrollo de la gestión de la prevención 27 (2006): 42-45.
  • Alcubierre, R. “Fotofobia.” Annals d’oftalmologia: òrgan de les Societats d’Oftalmologia de Catalunya, Valencia i Balears 26.2 (2018): 3.