It’s safe to say tears play an important role in keeping us healthy. Tears keep the surface of our eyeballs clean and moist, and help protect our eyes from damage. Although they appear to be nothing but water, tears are actually made of mucus, water, and oil. Mucus to coat the surface of the eye and bind tears to the eye, water to act as a saline solution containing various vitamins and minerals, and oil to prevent evaporation of the tears.
Every time we blink, we wash our eyes with tears produced by the lacrimal glands in our upper eyelids. When our eyes are irritated or inflamed, these same glands produce extra tears. Normally, tears are drained out of the eye and into the nose through ducts in the corners of our eyes. When we produce too many extra tears, or when our normal tear drainage is blocked, our eyes may get watery.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes for watery eyes. Excess tears can be caused by:
Allergies. The most common allergens to cause irritated, watery eyes are grass, tree, and weed pollens, pet dander, dust mites, and molds, as well as non-true allergens such as aerosol sprays, perfumes, and cigarette smoke.
Infections. Tears are produced to wash away germs and discharge, but they don’t always keep the bacteria away. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye” will produce excess tears, in addition to redness, blurred vision, and discharge. Blepharitis is another common infection of the eyelid known to cause watery eyes.
Irritants. As a response to irritations like dry air, bright light, wind, smoke, dust, an eyelash, or eyestrain, eyes will produce excess tears.
Dry-eye syndrome. Seems contradictory, but when eyes dry out, the lacrimal glands will produce an overabundance of tears to make up for the dryness, often overwhelming the eye’s natural drainage system.
Blocked tear ducts. Although less common, there is a chance watery eyes are caused by a blockage of the ducts that normally drain away tears.
In general, watery eyes are nothing to get worked up about and will clear up on their own, but if you notice the following symptoms with watery eyes, please give us a call:
- Reduced vision
- Pain around your eyes
- A foreign body sensation
- Unexplained tearing over a long period of time