Epiphora, commonly known as watery eyes, develops due to excessive tear production. A doctor can diagnose the exact cause for the development of epiphora, and prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Hui provides eyelid surgery and various other eye care procedures to patients in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Coachella Valley, Riverside, Redlands, Yucaipa, Loma Linda, and surrounding communities.
The two primary reasons for watering eyes are obstructed tear ducts and the excessive production of tears.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Some individuals have underdeveloped tear ducts since birth. Newborns typically have watery eyes that clear up with a few weeks, as the ducts develop.
Blocked ducts or ducts that are excessively narrow are the most common reason for watering eyes among adults and older children. Tear ducts may become narrow due to inflammation or swelling.
The tears will not be able to drain away and will accumulate in the tear sac if the tear ducts are narrowed or blocked.
If there are stagnant tears in the tear sac, it increases the risk of infection. The eye will also produce a sticky liquid, exacerbating the problem. In addition, an infection can cause inflammation on the side of the nose, adjacent to the eye.
Narrow drainage channels within the eyes, known as canaliculi, can also become obstructed, due to scarring or swelling.
Over-production of Tears
Irritated eyes may generate more tears than normal as the body attempts to rinse away the irritant.
The below mentioned irritants can lead to the over-production of tears:
- certain chemicals, such as fumes, and even onions
- infective conjunctivitis
- allergic conjunctivitis
- an eye injury, such as a scratch or a bit of grit (piece of dirt or tiny pebble)
- trichiasis (eyelashes grow inward)
- ectropion (the lower eyelid turns outward)
Certain individuals have tears with a high lipid, or fat, content. This may impede the uniform spread of liquid across the eye, which leaves dry patches that become irritated, sore, and cause the eye to generate more tears.
Infection and Inflammation
- Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is a common condition, which is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection in one or both eyes. This condition, as its name suggests, leads to inflamed blood vessels in the eye, giving it a red or pink appearance.
- The cornea (the clear lens of the eye) can become swollen. This condition is known as keratitis. The symptoms include redness, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, pain, and excess tearing and white discharge.
- Inflammation or infection in the lacrimal or tear glands can lead to inflammation and excess tearing.
- An ingrown eyelash may become infected, leading to painful inflammation and watery eyes.
- A stye appears as a pimple or a boil along the lash line. This painful red bump typically develops due to a bacterial infection of oil glands in the lid. A chalazion, which is a smaller bump along the edge or the underside of the eyelid but not painful, may also cause watery eyes.
- Blepharitis refers to a red, inflamed swelling of the lids. This condition develops when the oil glands at the base of the eyelashes become obstructed.
- Trachoma is a serious bacterial eye infection. This contagious condition is the primary cause of blindness worldwide. The symptoms include swollen eyelids, pus, itching, and epiphora.