Watery Eye: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Tearing is a normal function of the eye. Excessive tearing, or teary eyes that are not from normal crying, can be a sign of an underlying health condition or disease. The tears of the eye come from the tear gland, called the lacrimal gland, which is located above the outer eye. Tears are composed of water, oil, and antibodies. The moisture from tears on the front of the eye, the cornea, is essential to prevent damage to the cornea from drying and becoming inflamed (keratitis) leading to corneal abrasion and corneal ulcer.

The tears drain from the eye through the tear ducts (lacrimal ducts) into the nose. If the tear ducts become blocked, tears can well up in the eye and fall excessively. This leads to watery eye (epiphora), often mistaken for crying. Tear ducts can become blocked from infection and inflammation, both of which can also lead to excessive tear production. Blockage of the tear ducts can also occur from diseases such as sarcoidosis, lymphoma, IgG related disease, as well as from trauma and radiation treatments.

The outer membrane of the eye is called the conjunctiva. Any irritation of the cornea or conjunctiva can lead to watery eye. Inflammation of the conjunctiva from (conjunctivitis) infection, irritants (chemical splash, etc.), or allergy (hay fever) is a common cause of itchy, watery eyes, as well as eye swelling. Infection of the eye can require antibiotics in the form of prescription eyedrops. Regular use of over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears) can be very beneficial for treating chronic dry eyes, such as from Sjögren's syndrome or with facial nerve palsy (Bell's palsy) and inability to close the eyelid.

Symptoms that can be associated with watery eye and excessive tearing include

  • eye pain,
  • eye inflammation or eye infection,
  • runny nose,
  • vision impairment,
  • allergies,
  • sneezing,
  • eye swelling, and
  • eye redness.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other causes of watery eye

  • Crying (With Depression, Grief, Pain, or Sadness)
  • Ectropion
  • Exophthalmos
  • Foreign Body in the Eye
  • Infection (Viruses, Trachoma)
  • Medications
  • Tear Duct Blockage (From Injury or Infiltrative Diseases, Such as Amyloidosis or Sarcoidosis)
  • Trauma Injury (From Objects in Eye or Direct Blow)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/10/2019


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