Epiphora: Symptoms, causes and how to stop watery eyes

Julie Topping

Published on July 27, 2021, 1:20 pm

Epiphora: Symptoms, causes and how to stop watery eyes

I have friends who don’t cry watching The Notebook or Les Misérables. And then I know people who would unleash waterworks after watching 30 seconds of a documentary about a cat adopting a blind dog as her best friend.

But, our emotional range isn’t the only factor that determines what might tear us up. Sure you are more likely to cry remembering a bad breakup but what makes the tears come out in the middle of the day when you are going about your life?

If your tears are coming out without any apparent reason, then you might have epiphora or watery eyes. Grab a tissue box as this blog is going to be all about watery eyes.

What is Epiphora?

Epiphora refers to the excessive tearing of the eyes. It’s a common problem that mostly affects babies and older adults. A blocked tear duct is most likely to cause excessive tearing but there could be other causes as well.

While this problem may occur for a number of reasons, watery eyes are generally the result of overproduction or under drainage of tears.

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How do Tears Work?

Our tears are controlled by lacrimal glands which are located beneath your eyelids. These glands produce tears, a protective fluid upon blinking.

These glands are able to produce 1.2 microlitres of tears every minute which are then spread all over your eye’s surface by the eyelids.

The moistening effect of these tears prevents the cornea from dryness and inflammation. Around 20% of the tears evaporate from the air and the rest is stored in the inner corner of your eye. From there, the tears travel to the nasolacrimal duct and get out through the nasal cavity.

The nasal cavity has a capacity of 8 microlitres. So, overproduction or insufficient drainage of tears could lead to watery eyes.

Watery Eyes Symptoms

Epiphora would induce a stream of tears or your eyes would be a little more watery than usual. But, you may experience other symptoms as such as:

  • Red eyes
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Sharp pain in the eyes
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Soreness
  • Eye irritation or itching
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity

If your watery eyes are a result of an allergy or old, these symptoms would be accompanied by a runny nose and sneezing.

Causes of Watery Eyes

The causes of watery eyes could be threefold. One, there could be excess tear production. Second, there could be problems with tear composition. Third and last, there could be insufficient drainage for excess tears.

Some people have underdeveloped tear ducts and in most babies, these ducts are even blocked which doesn’t let the fluids drain out of your eyes and leave them watery.

When your eyes are dry, the tear glands may produce excessive fluids to combat the dryness. While your eyes may get dry during allergies or cold, the time you spend on digital devices also affects the moisture levels of your eyes.

In case you haven’t noticed, you blink less when staring at a bright screen. Thus, the more time you spend on devices, the higher your chances of developing a dry eye problem. Using blue screen glasses will help you dodge the blue waves while making sure that your eyes don’t run dry.

Other causes of watery eyes could be:

  • Cold, windy or dusty weather
  • Smog or pollution
  • Bright lights
  • Sunshine
  • Eye infections such as blepharitis
  • Common cold and allergies
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Eye strain and visual stress
  • Eye injury
  • Foreign objects, chemicals or irritants in the eye
  • Taking acne medications or birth control pills
  • Chronic health conditions such as diabetes or arthritis
  • Chemotherapy or other drug treatments for cancer


To rule out the culprit behind dry eyes is to have an eye test and conduct a thorough history of your visual symptoms. Apart from examining the health of your eyes, the eye doctor would want to know the following information:

  • What meds you are on
  • Any injury that has affected your eyes
  • If you have any chronic condition
  • Any signs of allergies
  • If you are exposed to chemicals or other ocular irritants

How to Stop Watery Eyes?

The treatment procedure for watery eyes depends on the cause behind the problem. If an allergy or irritant has triggered excess tear production in your eyes, then your doctor will prescribe you medications or allergy shots to ease the symptoms.

If an infection is what has caused watery eyes, you may get antibiotics or antiviral drugs to fight off infection and get your eyes back to normal.

Tell your doctor about any supplements or over-the-counter drugs that you take so they can chalk out an effective treatment plan for you.

Remedies for watery eyes include:

  • Using prescription eye drops
  • Treating allergies or eye infections
  • Placing a wet towel on your eyes to stimulate your lacrimal glands and remove any obstruction in them
  • Drinking plenty of water to induce healthy tear production in the eyes

If you wear contact lenses, these excessive tears could leave deposits on the soft surface of your lenses. This puts you at a higher risk of developing eye infections. Get new glasses made for your eye prescription. You don’t have to wait for your new glasses when you buy them from us. We give 24-hour delivery on glasses with free shipping and easy returns.

In case the medicines or eye drops fail to remove the obstruction or ward off blockage, then you might be referred for a treatment procedure called dacryocystorhinostomy. A small incision will be made near the nose to create a new drainage system so that the excessive tears coils find a way out.

Coping up with Watery Eyes

If you don’t want people to take you for an oversensitive rookie who cries at almost everything, then you need to do something about your watery eyes. Here is what would help your case:

  • Use eye drops to avoid ocular irritation. Choose lubricating eye drops instead of redness relieving eye drops that might cause further irritation and redness.
  • If you have an allergy, avoid going outside to reduce your exposure to allergens. Also, use air filters that would remove dust, pollen and mold.
  • Use prescription glasses if you usually wear contacts. Wearing contacts could trigger the burning sensation in your watery eyes.
  • Limit your screen time and avoid visually taxing tasks as they would lead to eye strain.

Watery eyes are a common thing that disappears on their own. But if it doesn’t, consult an eye doctor and seek the best treatment option for your symptoms.

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