When you expose your eyes to smoke, dirt, chemicals, and other irritants, your tear ducts make extra tears to protect the surfaces of your eyes from the irritant. The extra tears generally dry up once the threat ends, but if your eyes stay watery for no apparent reason at all, you might have watering eyes.
Watering eyes (or watery eyes) can occur for numerous reasons, including blocked and infected tear ducts. The condition can also develop when you have an eye or health condition that affects how well your tear ducts drain fluid. The aging process can possibly change the way your tear ducts function or create tears.
Below are two possible causes of your watering eyes and what you might do to treat them.
Dry Eye Syndrome
It may seem strange, or even impossible, but dry eye syndrome can cause your eyes to water. Dry eye syndrome develops when the surfaces of your eyes don't have enough moisture to keep them healthy. The syndrome is more common in women but can affect anyone over the age of 50.
Dry eye syndrome causes many different symptoms, including eye fatigue, redness, and light sensitivity. Your eyes may also feel as though they're on fire or burning. To soothe or ease your symptoms, your tear ducts produce extra fluid. Because the symptoms of dry eyes occur regularly, your eyes stay watery.
There are different things you can do to treat dry eye syndrome, including moisturizing your eyes with artificial tears. You can purchase over-the-counter eye drops, but these products generally only work well for mild symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, you may need a prescription from an eye doctor.
Prescription-grade eye drops may be stronger and last longer than OTC drops. In addition, an eye doctor can examine your eyes to ensure that you don't have anything else that could potentially cause your watering eyes, including blocked tear ducts.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Your tear ducts work similar to canals by channeling fluid out of the eyes. You have small glands in your eyes that release fluid every time you blink. The fluid should flow into small openings (puncta) placed strategically in the corners of your eyes. Once inside the openings, the fluid flows into a small sac and out through your tear ducts.
If your tear ducts are blocked, clogged, or infected, they can't drain fluid properly. The fluid backs up into the sacs and flows to the surfaces of your eyes. The watering in your eyes can be excessive. You may also experience a host other symptoms, including swelling and pain in your puncta.
If you have an infection in your tear ducts, sacs, or openings, you may experience a yellowish-white discharge called pus. The discharge could dry and form crusts on your eyelids. Although it doesn't happen to everyone, some people experience blurry vision.
Blocked tear ducts can be serious, so you may have problems treating the condition at home. Your efforts could actually make your symptoms infection or blockage worse, so it's a good idea that you see an eye doctor for care.
If you have an infection, an optometrist will generally instruct you to take antibiotics to clear it up. As the infection subsides, so will some of your other symptoms. For example, an infection can cause tissue swelling and pain. These symptoms may gradually go away once your infection goes away.
If antibiotics don't work, tear duct surgery may be an option. Surgery allows an eye specialist to open up or unplug the blocked duct. If the blockage occurred in the puncta, surgery may be used to drain them as well. The type of surgery you undergo may depend on the location and severity of your blockage.
To find out more about your watering eyes and their causes, contact The Eye Center for an appointment.