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How can I treat my watery eyes?

Dr. Laura C. Fine, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Treatment for watery eyes depends on the cause. If dry eye syndrome (decline in tear production) is causing excessive reflexive tearing, then the solution is to remedy the dry eyes. When an infection is responsible, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics.

If the problem is an obstruction in the drainage system, then surgery may help. If the obstruction occurs in the part of the eyelid where the drainage system begins (the punctum), a procedure known as punctoplasty is performed to widen the opening. Punctoplasty is usually performed under local anesthesia and takes 20 to 30 minutes. If the obstruction occurs in the nasolacrimal duct, located further along the drainage system, then a dacryocystorhinostomy may be performed. This procedure, which involves bypassing the blockage and constructing a new drainage pathway, typically is performed under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. If eyelid problems have developed, the eyelids can be repositioned surgically to alleviate watery eyes.

The first question and really the most important one is: Are the eyes watering because they are irritated by something, or are they watering because the drainage system is plugged?

Clues to the answer are how the eyes feel and look. Are they irritated and red? You will probably know it if they are. Conjunctivitis is the most common reason for the white portion of the eye turning red.

The conjunctivitis might be caused a viral or bacterial infection (often referred to as pink eye). Allergies are another common cause of irritated and red eyes.

Conjunctivitis often causes the eyes to get watery. But usually the degree of "watering" is modest.

Do you have a flood of tears, more than you can handle? This could be caused by a blocked tear duct. The tear duct drains our normal constant production of tears. The tear duct begins at a small opening in the corner of the eye and runs to the back of the nose and throat.

If you have a blocked tear duct, the flood of tears will run down your cheek. Usually only one eye is affected. The eyes should not be red from a blocked tear duct.

As strange as it may sound, dry eyes can also be watery. Tears are a mixture of oil, mucous and water. Dry eyes will water if there is not enough oil or mucous in the mixture.

You should see your doctor before just buying eye drops. If the problem is dry eyes, an eye lubricant will help. You may have to dry different brands (and generics are fine). There is no one "best" eye drop. You may have to try a few brands to find the one that works best for you.

Harvard Medical School The Aging Eye: Preventing and treating eye disease

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Harvard Medical School The Aging Eye: Preventing and treating eye disease

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.