Watering eyes

Watering eyes happen if too many tears are produced or they can't drain away properly. It can cause blurred vision, sore eyelids and sticky eyes. See your optician or GP if you have persistent watering eyes or any lumps or swelling around your eyes.

Causes of watering eyes

Watering eyes can affect anyone. It's most common in young babies and people over 60.

A problem with the glands

Glands in the eyelids (Meibomian glands) normally secrete an oily substance. This substance slows the evaporation of tears between blinks.

When these glands don't function properly, it can result in dry patches on your eyes.

These become sore and extra tears are produced as a reflex. This is the most likely cause of watering eyes.

Other causes

Other problems that can cause extra tears to be produced include:

Investigating and treating watering eyes

See your optometrist (optician) for a check up if you think your eyes are watering more than normal.

You may be advised to see your GP. Your GP will treat your symptoms, or treat the condition causing your symptoms.

They may refer you to an eye specialist called an ophthalmologist for an examination.

This may be because no obvious reason for your watering eye can be found, or because your symptoms are difficult to treat.

Investigating the cause

If you are referred, an ophthalmologist, they may carry out tests to look for blockages in your tear ducts.

A pharmacist may be able to help 

A pharmacist may be able to tell you:

  • what you can do to treat it yourself – such as cleaning and protecting your eyes
  • if you can buy anything to help – such as cleaning solutions, eye drops or allergy medicines
  • if you need to see an optician or GP

Treatment

If you're producing extra tears as a result of dry eye syndrome, you may be offered lubricating eye drops. You may also be advised to avoid activities that make your symptoms worst.

Your GP or consultant ophthalmologist will advise if medication may be needed. This is if the cause is an allergy or infection. Surgery may be needed if a tear duct is blocked.

If the symptoms aren't interfering with your life, you may choose not to have treatment for your watering eyes.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was reviewed January 2019

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