Watery Eyes ( Epiphora ): Causes & Treatment


Watery eyes are a quite common problem, especially in older people. There are various causes of watery eyes but it is mostly caused due to blockage of a tear duct. Watery eyes is a condition in which there is an overflow of tears onto the face. It happens without any explanation. This problem is also known as Epiphora. Tears are very important to keep the front surface of the eye healthy and also to maintain clear vision, but too many tears can also create difficult to see. This problem can develop at any age, but is common for older people and also for babies who are aged under 12 months.  Watery eyes can be treated effectively depending on the severity of symptoms.

Causes of watery eyes (Epiphora)

As we have mentioned earlier, watery eyes are mostly caused due to blockage of a tear duct. It is common for newborns to have watery eyes. Blocked tear duct or narrow tear ducts cause the watery eyes. Narrow tear ducts usually result in the swelling or inflammation in the eyes. When the ducts are narrowed or blocked then the tears will not be able to drain away and will build up in the tear sac. But despite this, there are also other various causes and some of them are as follows:

  1. Allergic conjunctivitis
  2. Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  3. Corneal abrasion
  4. Corneal ulcer
  5. Common cold overview
  6. Allergies overview
  7. Scleritis
  8. Entropion
  9. Hordeolum Externum
  10. Chalazion
  11. Allergic rhinitis
  12. Eyelid inflammation

Diagnosis of watery eyes

Epiphora is an easy condition to a primary care physician or the doctor to diagnose. First of all, the doctor will try to figure out the cause of the watery eyes whether it is caused by an infection, lesion or eyelid inflammation. If the doctor cannot determine the cause then the patient will be referred to an eye-care specialist doctor. After that, the specialist will examine the patient’s eyes and a probe might be inserted into the narrow drainage channels on the inside of the eye to check whether it is blocked or not. Liquid-like eye drops may be inserted in a tear duct in order to find out whether the liquid comes out of the patient’s nose or not. If the liquid does not come out of the nose, then a dye may be injected to find the location of the blockage. It will be found in an X-ray image as the dye shows up on the X-ray.

Treatment of watery eyes

Treatment of watery eyes can be conducted after determining its cause. For example:

  • Conjunctivitis can be treated by using eye drops.
  • Eyelashes which is irritating the eye can be removed.
  • Ectropion can be treated by a minor operation to the lower eyelid.
  • A blocked tear duct can be treated by doing an operation. Its usual operation is called dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR).
  • If the watering is very bad and is interfering with the daily living activities, then the DCR surgery is conducted. The surgery is also recommended if the patient has had an infection in the tear sac as a result of the blocked tear duct.
  • This surgery can be done in two ways, through the skin or endoscopically from within the nostril.
  • The narrowed small channel which is not fully blocked can be widened by pushing in a probe.


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