Watery eyes (epiphora) occur when there is an imbalance between the amount of tears produced and the amount of tears drained by the system of tear drainage tubes. If more tears are produced, then the system can drain away, then tears build up on the surface of the eye and may start to run down the side of the face.

What are the symptoms of watery eyes?

Watery eyes can be very bothersome and significantly reduce quality of life for patients. Symptoms may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Needing to wipe excess tears from the the eyes and cheeks
  • Swelling around the eyes
What are the causes of watery eyes?

Watery eyes can be caused by one of three mechanisms

1. An increase in the production of tears due to eye irritation from:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal irritation
  • Foreign bodies in the eye
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye infection or inflammation

2. Blockage of the tear drainage system:

  • Congenital blockages
  • Age-related blockages
  • Infection and trauma
  • Hay fever and sinusitis
  • Lacrimal stones

3. Dysfunction of the tear pump system

  • Stroke
  • Facial weakness
  • Drooping of the eyelids
How do you diagnose and treat watery eyes?

The diagnosis of watery eyes is often made by the patient. A detailed exam will help confirm the diagnosis and identify the likely cause. Treatment will then be aimed at addressing the cause of the watering and may include medications or surgery.


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