Considered to be a common problem especially in elderly individuals, watering eyes is usually caused by blocked tear ducts. If the symptoms are not severe, treatment is usually not needed. Blocked tear ducts are usually treated via surgery although there are other treatment options available depending on what the cause is.

Who Are Affected by Watering Eyes?

Anyone can experience this eye condition wherein tears will continuously flow from the eyes to the cheeks. Although, it is much more common in individuals aged 60 years and above as well as new born babies. One or both of the eyes can be affected.

Normal Tears

Each of the eyes contains the tiny lacrimal gland which basically functions to produce tears. Blinking spreads these tears and ensures constant moistness of the eyes. Drainage of the tears is done via the canaliculi, channels located on the inner eye, into the tear sac and then to the tear duct which is connected to the nose.

Causes of Watering Eyes

The simplest explanation for this condition is the over production of tears which can be due to:

  • Emotions that could make you sad and cry
  • Irritants such as chemicals
  • Infections such as infective conjunctivitis
  • Allergy which causes inflammation such as allergic conjunctivitis
  • Injuries or scratches to the eyes (entropion)
  • Tear film abnormalities – incorrect amount of lipid content in tears resulting to uneven spread in tears and appearance of dry patches. These dry patches can result to soreness and eventually watering eyes.
  • Thyroid disease although uncommon

Another cause can be linked to faulty tear drainage:

  • Tears are blocked in the drain channels:
  • Most common cause in adult watering eyes usually near the tear sac. Possible explanation can be narrowed upper portion of the tear ducts which can be due to inflammation. Having blocked tear ducts will not only result to watery eyes but also infection of the stagnant tears. The side of your nose just next to you eyes can also become swollen.
  • In some cases, tear ducts are not fully blocked but are just too narrow to efficiently drain tears
  • Presence of nasal polyp can cause blockage in the tear ducts preventing tears from coming out
  • Many new born babies are born with closed tear ducts but usually opens after a couple of weeks even without treatment
  • Ectropion – condition wherein there is outward turning of the lower eyelid causing tears to fall off the eyelid and not drain into the canaliculi.

Testing for Watering Eyes

In many cases, the reason for this condition is easily determined such as infection, entropion, conjunctivitis and ectropion. If the cause is not as obvious as these, further testing and examination is recommended. The tests will usually depend on the severity of the condition.

On the other hand, if the specialist suspects a drainage problem, examination of the drainage channels will be conducted. This will be done under local anaesthesia. The procedure will involve the pushing of a thin stick which will act as probe into your canaliculi towards your tear sac in order to see if the channel is blocked.  In case the probe reaches the tear sac without any problems, the fluid can then be syringed through the tear duct to find out if it will come out of your nose.

This syringing technique can actually clear blockages but relief can only be temporary. If a blockage is observed, a dye will be injected into the affected tear duct and an x-ray image is taken. The dye can be seen easily on the film and will accurately show where the narrowing or obstruction is.

Treatment for Watering Eyes

Successful treatment of watering eyes can usually be done if the cause is identified and cured. For instance:

  • if the cause is irritation due to an eyelash, the eyelash can be removed
  • if the reason is due to conjunctivitis, eye drops can be effective
  • if the problem is related to tear drainage:
  • minor operation if it is found to be an ectropion
  • for babies: treatment is not needed since the condition clears up as soon as the tear ducts are fully-developed
  • in adults: no treatment recommended if the condition is mild and does not cause any discomfort; surgical treatment called dacrocystorhinostomy of DCR wherein a new channel will be created connecting the tear sac and the inner nose; surgical operation involving widening of the tear duct by blowing it up using a tiny balloon; pushing of a probe to widen narrowed canaliculi as long as it is just partially blocked.