Your eyes are exposed to any number of particles and foreign substances on a daily basis. To keep them from becoming irritated, tears wash away the unwanted content and lubricate the eyes which is what you want to have happen.
When your eyes tear excessively, however, it can be an indication that something more serious is wrong. The causes can vary greatly which can make diagnosis tricky. Following are a few things you should keep in mind if you’re trying to find out what causes watery eyes because it’s become a problem for you or someone you know.
How Tear Production Works
There are glands located above and behind the eyelids called the lacrimal glands. When we blink, tears are excreted from the glands and pushed across the surfaces of the eyes. The tears carry nutrients to the surface of the cornea as well as washes away dead or damaged cells.
The tears then collect in the inner corner of each eye in order to travel through tubes called the puncta. From there they enter lacrimal sacs before they are then sent through the nasolacrimal ducts that connect the eyes and the nose. From the nose they run into the throat, you swallow and they’re gone. Each time you blink, the process begins again.
What Causes Watery Eyes?
Excessive tearing does not always mean that an impending disaster is in the works, but there are signs and symptoms to indicate a problem may exist. The medical term is Epiphora. Frequently, it can be caused when the drainage ducts in the eyes are clogged which prevents tears from draining properly.
Another condition is when the eyes produce more tears than they should. In either case, a medical diagnosis is required. What causes watery eyes can be associated with any or a combination of factors. Following are a few common causes. It’s important to remember, however, that there are many.
The eyes are exposed to many environmental irritants on a daily basis. Smog, bright lights, hot wind, airborne allergens, blowing dust, chemicals and much more can cause the eyes to water excessively. Some people are allergic to the particles flying through the air whereas others can develop an infection or virus from the particles that result in a condition called conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis, which may be better known as pink eye, is extremely common and is caused by an infection or inflammation of the outermost layer of the eyeball. It can be caused by infections, allergies, viruses or problems related to contact lenses.
In all the aforementioned cases, the eyes will water excessively in order to relieve the discomfort and irritation caused by the condition.
Many eye disorders can affect people of all ages and both sexes. One such condition is a non-contagious and common condition called Blepharitis. It can be associated with skin disorders such as rosacea or seborrhea as well as bacterial infections. It is identifiable by the crusty follicles that form along the edge of the eyelid. The follicles often look like dandruff attached to the base of the eyelashes.
Blepharitis is actually caused when the oil glands that run along the edges of the eyelids become inflamed or irritated. Although it may not seem related, the secretions from the meibomaian, or oil, glands are an important component in healthy tear film.
When the condition develops, the tear layer can evaporate quickly or become unstable leading to excessive tear production in order to compensate. Unfortunately, without medical care the cornea can become damaged which can lead to a loss of vision.
Dry Eye Syndrome
It may seem illogical, but the leading cause of watery eyes is dry eye syndrome. It’s a result of the body attempting to address the problem when the quantity or quality of tears are reduced causing a reactionary increase in tear secretion. One in eight adults have one of the many forms of dry eye syndrome which equates to 33 million Americans nationwide.
Individuals of any age can develop the condition in forms that run from mild to severe. In the latter group, patients often have to undergo surgery when they begin to lose their vision. The functioning of the eye is basic. The cornea must be covered by a tear film made up of oil, water and mucous at all times.
However, the condition can be difficult to diagnose since, whether due to the tear system producing insufficient tears or failing to keep your eyes moisturized, excessively watery eyes can be due to any number of factors including dry eye syndrome. Additionally, foods and liquids high in caffeine, some medications and environmental factors can cause many of the same symptoms.
When the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the front of the eye (the cornea) becomes inflamed you may have keratitis. It’s a condition frequently caused by parasites, viruses, fungi or bacteria or can even be noninfectious in nature. In the noninfectious form, those that wear their contact lenses too long or receive a minor injury to the cornea may also be suffering from keratitis.
Symptoms frequently include eye redness along with watery eyes. Mild to moderate cases are often treated successfully but if left untreated it may result in permanent vision damage or loss.
One of the leading causes of blindness in the world, according to WHO (the World Health Organization), is trachoma. It has caused blindness in more than 6 million people worldwide and is prevalent in poor countries. In fact, 60% of the people that come into contact with an infected person will also acquire the disease.
Trachoma is a bacterial infection that is extremely contagious and is spread through contact with secretions from the eyes, eyelids, nose or throat of infected people. Symptoms resemble those of pink eye so it’s important to see a doctor immediately if you come into contact with an individual that is suspected of having it especially once symptoms begin to appear.
In addition to watery eyes, you may also notice a mild itching and irritation of the eyes and eyelids initially that leads to swollen eyelids and pus draining from the eyes.
Other Causes of Watery Eyes
As mention before, there are numerous causes for watery eyes. An increase in tear flow is part of the aging process and babies are often born with plugged duct-work. Here are a few of the other most common causes.
- Medication such as chemotherapy drugs, epinephrine and eyedrops with echothiophate iodides and pilocarpine in them;
- Common cold;
- Corneal abrasions such as scratches;
- Corneal ulcers;
- Eyelids that begin to turn outward or inward;
- A foreign object in the eye-relate;
- Hay fever;
- Ingrown eyelashes;
- Tear duct infections;
- Bell’s palsy;
- Burns such as from a chemical splashed in the eyes;
- Radiation therapy;
- Rheumatoid arthritis;
- Thyroid disorders, and many other conditions.
Diagnosing What Causes Watery Eyes
Many eye-related diseases and conditions can be initially identified when tear production increases. Your doctor may use the following diagnostic techniques and procedures:
- An eye exam will be conducted concurrently with various medical tests to determine why the problem has developed.
- Tear samples may be taken since they can determine whether or not an infection could be a causal factor.
- The doctor may also perform a tear gauge production test or may decide to try to irrigate the lacrimal drainage system in order to determine if a blockage exists.
Regardless of the source, it’s always best if what causes watery eyes is diagnosed by a medical professional. After all, many conditions can lead to vision impairment that can even include blindness. The right diagnosis will ensure the right treatment plan and help you stop watery eyes.
Summing Things Up
It can be difficult to determine exactly what causes watery eyes with certainty. The condition might clear up on its own. However, if it persists for any extended period of time, making an appointment with your doctor should be your first priority. After all, the outlook for correcting what causes watery eyes is excellent with the proper treatment.