Why do I have watery eyes?

Written by: Mr Daniel Ezra
Published: | Updated: 23/01/2019
Edited by: Nicholas Howley

Having naturally watery eyes can be embarrassing – especially if it happens often at work. But did you know that it can actually be a medical condition, and that there is treatment to fix it? We asked expert ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon Mr Daniel Ezra why some people get watery eyes, how to know if you have a medical problem, and what the treatment options are.

What are watery eyes?

Watery eyes is the failure of your eyes to drain away the tears it produces. Your eyes are constantly producing tears to keep the eye lubricated and normally the eye’s in-built drainage system prevents the tears from building up.

When this fails, you’ll notice that your eyes are particularly watery – and you might also experience other problems such as skin irritation, redness, and stickiness.

Why do some people get watery eyes?

Watery eyes occur when either:

  • the eyes are producing too many tears
  • the tears aren’t able to drain away properly

If your tears aren’t draining away properly, this might be because the tear drainage opening is in the wrong place, or because the tear drainage pump isn’t working properly any more.

Too many tears can occur as a result of a number of conditions – such as conjunctivitis, ectropionentropion, and (somewhat ironically) dry eye syndrome.

How common is it?

Watery eyes are quite common and can affect people of any age. However, we mostly see it in children and elderly adults.

How do I know if I have a problem?

Many people wonder whether their watery eyes are a medical problem that needs treating or just a natural reaction that everybody else have.

It is normal to have watery eyes if:

  • the air around you is smoky
  • you get something in your eye

It is not normal for your eyes to constantly water – this would indicate that there really is something wrong with your eyes’ drainage system.

In any case, if your eyes are watering too often and it’s causing you embarrassment – or difficulties at work – it’s worth visiting an ophthalmologist to see if there’s anything that can help.

Can it be treated?

Watery eyes can absolutely be treated – and there are many treatment operations.

In most cases, you won’t need surgery. You’ll be able to treat the eye with eye drops, a special cleaning solution, or medication if the problem is an allergic reaction.

If these don’t work, or if investigations reveal a blocked or dysfunctional tear duct, then surgery will be considered. You can read more about the various surgical options and what to expect from tear duct surgery in my next article.

By Mr Daniel Ezra

Mr Daniel Ezra is an expert consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon based at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, where he is also head of the oculoplastic, orbital and lacrimal research programme. As a leading expert in his field, Mr Ezra specialises in all aspects of lacrimal and eyelid surgery, with particular expertise in functional and aesthetic surgical procedures.

His skills as an oculoplastic surgeon were developed through his advanced subspecialty training at both Moorfields Eye Hospital, and as an Interface Fellow in Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery, where he trained in plastic surgery, ENT surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and dermatology. 

His position of Honorary Lecturer at the UCL Institute of Opthalmology reflects his strong interest in education - he frequently lectures both nationally and internationally, and is actively involved in the surgical training of medical students. Mr Ezra regularly speaks at international meetings, and is widely published, with numerous papers and book chapters to his name. 

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