Watery eyes, also known as epiphora is a condition in which either too many tears are produced or they cannot drain away properly.
The ‘water’ that keeps the eyes wet is a complex fluid made of many different chemicals. These chemicals kill germs, nourish, protect, wash the eye and give the front surface – the cornea, its final polish to focus light accurately for clear vision.
Causes of watery eyes include:
- Excessive production of tears (dry eye syndrome)
- Blocked tear duct (small tubes that tears drain into)
- An abnormal eyelid position
- An allergy or infection (conjunctivitis)
Anyone can be affected and it can lead to blurred vision, sore eyelids, redness and general discomfort. It’s normal for your eyes to water when exposed to cold wind or peeling onions as this is due to excessive production of tears and usually resolve on their own. If persistent however, watery eyes can be treated by probing the blocked passage (especially in infants), using surgical procedures to ‘unblock’ the passage or create an alternative path for the fluid to flow.
Excessive tear fluid that overflows on to the lower lid and cheek should be dabbed with a soft clean tissue; wiping with a sideways movement can rub the cells off the wet skin of the lids, making them sore and irritable.
You should see an eye care specialist if you are experiencing watery eyes where the fluid is sticky, there is a frank discharge, or associated with red and sore eyes.