Watery Eyes: Causes, Conditions, Treatment

Written By: Susannah Lockett

Watery eyes are an annoying but typically benign eye condition. Before considering possible but unlikely underlying causes, try correcting the more common causes of watering eyes first.

This may include:

1. Allergies

2. Eye strain from digital devices

3. Faulty contact lenses (torn or worn out)

4. Eye debris which may not be obvious. For example, an eyelash may be stuck and concealed in a lower inner eyelid fold.

Another surprising and unpredictable cause of watery eyes is dry eye syndrome. Although this may seem unlikely, the eye may produce more tears to compensate for dry eye.

This typically doesn’t work very well because the extra tears are usually from the aqueous or water tear glands. To be effective, tears must contain both water and a lipid or fatty layer.

These two components are secreted from two different kinds of glands in the eyes and only mix together after being released from their respective glands.

The lipid tear layer helps the tears stay on the eye without evaporating too fast and increases eye lubrication.

Medicated eye drops may help with watering when caused by dry eye.

More About Common Watery Eye Causes

Allergies: seasonal eye allergies, sometimes called hay fever, can cause the eyes to itch, producing a localized irritation. The eye may respond with more tears to alleviate this irritation.

Ask your eye doctor about drops to soothe the eyes and antihistamines to fight the body’s release of a compound called histamine that can cause eye itching and watering.

Conjunctivitis: also called pink eye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white of the eye (the sclera) and lining the insides of the eyelids.

Discharge from pink eye may be mistaken for watery eyes. It’s actually a part of the inflammation process. Tears may be profuse but thicker than usual and may have a yellowish tinge. If this occurs, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Once you eliminate the more common possibilities of watery eye conditions, less common watery eye causes may be the culprit:

1. Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)

2. Aging

3. Bacterial keratitis or a corneal ulcer

4. Eye infections and injuries

5. Macular degeneration

6. Dysfunction of the lacrimal (tear) glands

7. Stye

8. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious, typically symptomless eye disease caused by excessively high pressure within the eyeball. Over time, this pressure can damage the optic nerve and may cause total blindness.

Eye doctors guard against this silent eyesight thief by measuring the pressure within your eyes at every comprehensive eye exam.


Natural Home Remedies for Watery Eyes

It may sound strange, but gently pressing a cold metal spoon against your closed eyelids may alleviate watery eyes by relaxing overworked capillaries (tiny blood vessels).

You can try a warm compress to soften the meibum, the oily substance secreted by tiny meibomian eye glands located along the edges of the eyelids. If a stye is also present, this method will help to naturally speed healing and eliminate this possible cause of watery eyes.

Other remedies may include:

1. Avoid your allergy triggers. An allergist can help you determine your allergy triggers and prescribe treatment to reduce your reaction to them.

2. Take a short nap to refresh your eyes and brain.

3. Get a kitchen timer and use it to manage your screen time. Timers will remind you to look away from a digital screen at least every 20 minutes or so.

Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds before resuming your digital screen activity.

4. Meditate in a quiet room with your eyes closed.

5. Alter your diet to include more water to hydrate your eyes naturally. Healthy dietary fats may also help support eye health. Try eating fatty fish at least twice a week. This includes mackerel, sardines, and salmon.

You can also try dietary fatty acid supplements with flaxseed, fish, or borage oils. Evening primrose oil contains an important fat called linoleic acid. Foods or supplements with vitamin A or beta carotene will help to support eye health in general.

Do not exceed the recommended dosage for vitamin A. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin and can build up in the body’s fatty tissues, possibly causing issues with toxicity.

Beta carotene is the orange compound found in carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and other yellow and orange fruits and veggies. It’s a vitamin A precursor. This means the body can manufacture vitamin A from beta carotene.

You can consume as much beta carotene as you want without harm because the body will only convert beta carotene to vitamin A in safe amounts.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Watery Eyes

1. Discontinue contact lens wear for an extended period. Contact lens wear often results in less frequent blinking and may trigger watery eyes to help compensate.

2. Purchase wraparound sunglasses to better protect the eyes from dust and debris. Select sunglasses rated for UVA and UVB light to safeguard your eyes from excessive sunlight exposure.

3. Thoroughly remove eye makeup every day. Try using pure, organic jojoba oil. Not only will it remove every trace of makeup, but jojoba oil also has a chemical composition nearly identical to the skin’s natural oils.

Buy quality jojoba oil sustainably sourced and cold-pressed. It’s available at a fairly reasonable cost from natural food stores, vitamin stores, and online.

Watery Eyes Treatment

It’s not surprising to learn that treatment depends on the cause. Dietary improvements may help overall. Antihistamines will combat the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

If over-the-counter medicines like diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, loratadine, or cetirizine don’t provide enough relief, ask your doctor about prescription options like hydroxyzine (Vistaril or Atarax).

Pink eye typically responds to antibiotic eye drop therapy. Dry eye syndrome is often dramatically relieved by moisturizing eye drops or drops containing the immune system depressant cyclosporine. Sometimes, steroid eye drops may be prescribed to alleviate dry eye symptoms.

Glaucoma is also often well-controlled with special eye drops. This may relieve watery eyes caused by this condition.

Underlying health conditions have various treatments. When successful, they may also relieve the associated watery eye symptoms.

Find a Top Eye Doctor Near You

Although watery eyes typically have a benign cause, this is not always true.

Particularly in the case of macular degeneration, prompt treatment by an eye care professional has the best chance to preserve eyesight and avoid serious vision loss associated with this condition.

If you’re concerned about watery eyes, need a new eyeglass prescription, or have other eye health concerns, we can help. We work with top-rated eye doctors practicing in many areas all across the country.

We’ll help you set your first appointment with your new eye doctor and look forward to helping you.

Published on: Apr 30, 2022
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