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Eyes Watering?  Underlying Dry Eye Could Be the Cause

Epiphora: Excessive watering of the eyes.

As ironic as it may seem, one of the most common causes of a watering, tearful, running eye is underlying eye dryness.

Generally speaking, your lacrimal (tear) system produces two types of tears. The first type are your normal lubricating “happy” tears which are secreted by glands in and around your eyelids and continuously bathe your eyes. The second type are your reflex “sad” tears which are released in volumes when you cry or get something in your eye.  Ideally, your normal happy tears will keep your eyes well lubricated and comfortable. However, if those tears are inadequate and the surface of the eye becomes dry, irritated and angry, the reflex sad tears will be released (in large amounts) as a protective mechanism for the eye. Since the tear drainage system cannot handle the sudden volume of tears, the extra tears often roll over the eyelids resulting in a watering eye. Hence the watering eye is a simple plumbing problem similar to overflowing a sink.

The reflex tears can also be triggered by other eye irritating conditions such as bright light, wind, or other sources of dry air moving over the surface of the eyes.  This why patients often complain of watering eyes when outside in cold and dry air or when driving in the car with the heater fan on.  Staring at the computer or other visually demanding task can slow blink rate and tear circulation which can result in exposure dry eye and activation of angry reflex tearing.

A plugged up tear drainage duct (puncta) can also cause a watering eye. This usually involves only one eye, is more common in babies and older patients, and may require medical intervention if it does not resolve spontaneously.

Lastly, watering eyes can also be caused by eye allergies or other environmental irritants such as smoke, noxious chemicals, preservative eyedrops, and of course…..onions!

If you are having problems with excessive eye watering, DON’T just go to the store and buy the cheapest eyedrop on the shelf.  Please call our office and schedule a dry eye/eye watering appointment where we can determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

Thanks for reading

Dr. Steve and Dr. Sarah