Various causes and treatments for watery eye
Tears are an integral part of our eyes. They play a very important role—keeping the eyes well-lubricated. But, too much of tears can cause a condition called watery eyes. This condition predominantly appears in infants and the elderly. But, it is not uncommon to see others suffer from watery eyes, due to a host of other factors and conditions. Watery eyes from allergies such as conjunctivitis last for a few days; till the time of the infection in the eye subsides. Certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs, epinephrine, and eye drops containing pilocarpine and echothiophate iodide can also cause watery eyes. Watery eyes medically termed Epiphora, can affect one eye or both eyes.
There are two main causes for watery eyes —blocked tear ducts and excess tear production.
Blocked tear ducts
Blocked tear ducts are the most common cause for watery eyes. Blocked ducts or narrowed ducts cause epiphora. Swelling or inflammation of the tear duct can cause it to narrow. With the result, the tears instead of draining into the nose, fill up the tear sac.
Build up of tears in the tear sac and lead to an infection, which can worsen the eye. Blocked tear ducts can also lead to inflammation on the side of the nose as well.
Excess tear production
What happens when a foreign object enters your eye? Your eyes begin to water. The body’s natural defense mechanism ensures that the irritant is expelled through the watering.
Exposure to chemicals and fumes, allergic and infective conjunctivitis, an eye injury are some causes which can lead to watery eyes.
The common causes for watery eyes include;
- Tear duct infection
- Blepharitis – eyelid inflammation
- Trichiasis – ingrown eyelash
- Ectropion – outwardly turned eyelid
- Entropion – inwardly turned eyelid
- Common cold
- Hay fever
- Dry eye syndrome
- Eye injury
Some medical conditions can also trigger watery eyes. These include
- Chronic sinusitis
- Bell’s palsy
- Facial nerve palsy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disorders
- Inflammatory diseases
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome
- Tumors affecting the tear drainage system
- Radiation therapy
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
Treatment options for watery eyes are specific to the cause and extent of severity. In some cases, the issue will resolve on its own, over a period of time. Like infants have watery eyes due to underdeveloped tear ducts. As they grow, the ducts develop and mitigate the issue.
Listed below are the specific treatment options.
Blocked tear duct
If the cause of watery eyes is identified to a blocked tear duct, a surgical procedure called dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) is performed. In this procedure, a new channel is created from the tear sac to the inside of the nose. This helps the tears to discharge into the nasal cavity and thus prevent watery eyes.
This is a condition characterized by the eyelash growing inwards. The inward growth of the eyelash causes irritation and leads to the eye to discharge more tears. Removing the inward growing eyelash, or any other foreign particle lodged inside the eye addresses the problem of watery eyes.
This is a condition where the eyelid is turned outwards. This usually happens because of a weak tendon. Surgery helps to tighten the tendon such that it holds the eyelid in place.
Blocked drainage channels
The canaliculi or drainage channel through which the tears drain out is present on the inside of the eye. In case, these are narrowed, a probe is inserted to widen the canaliculi and allow normal tear drainage. If the canaliculi are completely blocked, a surgery to open up the drainage channel has to be performed.
Once the cause is known, the issue of watery eyes can be addressed with the suitable treatment option.
If the issue is not very severe, there are some home remedies available that can help to control watery eyes.
- Eye strain causes watering. So, it’s best to take some time off from your reading activity.
- Take a break from constantly viewing the television, smartphone or laptop screen. Although these activities are part of your everyday routine, they can cause excessive strain on your eyes.
- Lubricating your eyes with OTC eye drops also helps. Applying a warm, damp cloth over the eyes and mild massage on the eyelids clears up blockages.
In case the home remedies do not offer respite with persistent symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness, and irritation, it’s best to consult an eye doctor.
Can you prevent watery eyes?
Well, prevention is definitely better than cure. Follow these tips:
- Stay away from allergens that can cause irritation in the eye.
- Wear protective eye-wear, when you are outdoors.
- Do not rub itchy eyes.
- Avoid coming into contact with people down with infections such as conjunctivitis.