Watery eyes, or epiphora as it is medically known, is one of the most common symptoms seen in optometric practice.
While watery eyes can be perfectly normal, especially if you are outdoors in a windy environment, there are many possible causes including:
- Blocked tear duct
- Ectropion – a condition where the eyelid droops away from its normal position
- Dry eye
It is important to see your optometrist to ascertain the cause of your watery eyes, especially if you suffer from any of the following symptoms:
- Watery eyes that affect your day to day activities
- Vision loss
- Sticky discharge
- Any lumps or swellings on or around the eye area
You may be surprised to see dry eye listed as a cause of watery eyes but it is actually one of the most common causes. The natural tear film is made up of 3 layers – mucin (mucus), aqueous (water) and lipid (oil). All three layers play an important role in maintaining a healthy tear film and if the balance is incorrect, this can result in gritty, watery eyes. Most dry eye treatments act to restore the natural balance of these layers.
What can I do to alleviate my watery eyes?
Firstly, it is important to find out what is causing your symptoms, so it is advised to book an appointment with your local optometrist to rule out any underlying condition.
Artificial tears can be a very effective way of managing watery eyes. These drops contain the component your tear film lacks and can restore the natural balance of the tears and reduce watering. The key to artificial tears is to use them little and often. It may be helpful to use them more when using the computer (your natural blink rate slows when staring at screens, so dry eye symptoms can be worse with prolonged screen use) or when using artificial heat sources which can dry the eyes out further. Your optometrist can advise you on the best drops to use and how to use them.
Some people find it helpful to use a hot compress in the form of a warm clean flannel held over closed eyelids for a few minutes each day to help the oily layer of the tears to flow freely.
Your optometrist may refer you to your GP if specific drops are required e.g in the case of allergy or infection. They may also need to refer you to an ophthalmologist in case minor surgical procedures are required e.g in the case of blocked tear ducts.