What causes tearing of the eye and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Excessive tearing, also known as watery eyes, can be a bothersome and uncomfortable condition. It occurs when there is an overflow of tears onto the face, often accompanied by a constant need to wipe the eyes. Understanding the causes of tearing and how to treat it can help alleviate this symptom and improve overall eye health.

Tearing Causes

There are several factors that can contribute to tearing of the eye:

  • Eye Irritation: Irritants such as dust, smoke, or allergens can cause the eyes to produce excessive tears as a protective mechanism.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to substances like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods can trigger tearing as part of the body’s immune response.
  • Dry Eyes: Paradoxically, dry eyes can also lead to tearing. When the eyes are not adequately lubricated, they may produce more tears to compensate for the lack of moisture.
  • Eye Infections: Infections such as conjunctivitis or blepharitis can cause tearing along with other symptoms like redness, itching, and discharge.
  • Blocked Tear Ducts: Tear ducts are responsible for draining tears away from the eyes. If they become blocked or narrowed, tears may accumulate and overflow.
  • Eye Strain: Prolonged use of digital devices, reading in poor lighting conditions, or focusing on nearby objects for extended periods can strain the eyes and lead to tearing.
  • Emotional Factors: Strong emotions like sadness, happiness, or laughter can trigger tearing due to the connection between the tear glands and the brain.

Tearing Symptoms

Excessive tearing can manifest in various ways, and individuals may experience different symptoms. Some common signs of tearing include:

  • Constant tearing or watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye redness or irritation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sticky or crusty eyelashes upon waking
  • Feeling like there is something in the eye

Tearing Treatment

The treatment for tearing depends on the underlying cause. Here are some remedies for tearing eyes:

1. Addressing Eye Irritation

If eye irritation is the cause of tearing, it is essential to identify and eliminate the irritant. This may involve avoiding smoke-filled environments, wearing protective eyewear in dusty areas, or using artificial tears to soothe the eyes.

2. Managing Allergies

For tearing caused by allergies, over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops or oral medications can provide relief. Avoiding known allergens and keeping the home environment clean can also help reduce symptoms.

3. Treating Dry Eyes

To alleviate tearing due to dry eyes, artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can be used to moisturize the eyes. In some cases, prescription medications or procedures to block tear drainage may be recommended by an eye care professional.

4. Addressing Eye Infections

If an eye infection is causing tearing, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Depending on the type and severity of the infection, treatment may involve antibiotic or antiviral medications, warm compresses, or eyelid hygiene practices.

5. Clearing Blocked Tear Ducts

Blocked tear ducts can be treated through various methods, including massage, warm compresses, or the insertion of tiny tubes to help drain tears. In severe cases, surgery may be required to open or bypass the blocked ducts.

6. Reducing Eye Strain

To reduce tearing caused by eye strain, it is important to take regular breaks when using digital devices or performing tasks that require intense focus. Adjusting screen brightness, using proper lighting, and practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes) can also help alleviate strain.

7. Managing Emotional Factors

While it may be challenging to control tearing triggered by emotions, taking deep breaths, practicing relaxation techniques, or using a cold compress can help reduce the intensity and duration of tearing episodes.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments may vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause of tearing. Consulting with an eye care professional is recommended for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

In conclusion, tearing of the eye, or excessive tearing, can be caused by various factors such as eye irritation, allergies, dry eyes, infections, blocked tear ducts, eye strain, and emotional factors. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment. Remedies for tearing eyes include addressing eye irritation, managing allergies, treating dry eyes, addressing eye infections, clearing blocked tear ducts, reducing eye strain, and managing emotional factors. By following these tips and seeking professional advice when necessary, individuals can find relief from tearing and improve their overall eye health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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