Watery eyes – also known as epiphora – is a common condition, though commonly misunderstood. Basically, epiphora means an overflow of tears, often without a particular reason. While tears normally drain through the nasolacrimal system, if there is insufficient tear film drainage from the eyes, the tears overflow onto the face.
Epiphora can occur at any age, but is commonly seen in babies, children under the age of two, or adults over the age of 60.
The good news is, watery eyes can effectively be treated as long as you speak to your doctor about your condition.
Causes of watery eyes
Many factors and conditions can contribute to watery eyes. For children, watery eyes are often a result of a tear duct blockage. In this situation, instead of draining away, the tears build up in the tear sac and overflow. For older adults, aging is the main cause of watery eyes, as the skin of the eyelids sags away from the eyeballs, so tears accumulate and flow out.
Watery eyes may also be induced by certain medications, such as chemotherapy, epinephrine, and eye drops.
Common causes for watery eyes include allergies, eyelid inflammation, blocked tear duct, common cold, corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer, dry eyes, outwardly and inwardly turned eyelids, foreign object in the eye, hay fever, ingrown eyelash, keratitis, pink eye, stye, tear duct infection, trachoma, Bell’s palsy, eye injury, burns, chemicals in the eye, chronic sinusitis, facial nerve palsy, inflammatory disease, radiation therapy, sarcoidosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, surgery of the eyes or nose, thyroid disorders, tumors affecting tear drainage, and Wegener’s granulomatosis.
As you can see, epiphora causes can range in severity. This is why it is so important to have your watery eye symptoms checked to help uncover the underlying cause and thus receive proper treatment.
When to see a doctor for watery eyes
You should seek immediate attention for your watery eyes if your vision becomes impaired or changes, if you experience pain around the eyes, or if you sense a foreign object in the eye.
Generally, watery eyes may clear up on their own, but if the condition is persistent you should see your doctor for additional testing.