Eye Health: What Causes Watery Eyes?

Do you have watery eyes? Learn about four reasons your eyes may water and whether or not you need to be concerned.

1) Dry-eye syndrome

Yes, it does sound crazy that dry eyes can cause watery eyes, but it’s true—when our eyes dry out, they become irritated and uncomfortable. This causes the glands in our eyes to go into overdrive, producing more tears than our eye’s natural drainage system can handle. Dry eyes can be caused by a number of medical conditions and medications, as well as dry, windy environments and old age. The most common cause of dry-eye syndrome, however, is a chronic condition called Keratoconjunctivitis (KCS), where the eyes make tears that do not contain enough water. Mild cases of dry-eye syndrome are nothing to be worried about, and many over-the-counter remedies, such as eye drops, are readily available. 

2) Allergies

An allergic reaction can cause your eyes to become red and irritated, often resulting in tear production, itching, and burning. The most common outdoor allergens that can irritate your eyes are grass, tree, and weed pollens, while pet dander, dust mites, and molds are among the most common indoor allergens. Exhaust fumes, aerosol sprays, perfumes, and cigarette smoke can also cause itchy, watery eyes (though these aren’t true allergens). If you suspect that allergies are behind your watery eyes, talk to your eye doctor to find out what steps can be taken to remedy the situation.

3) Irritants

By far the most common cause of watery eyes, irritants affect us all. Dry air, bright light, wind, smoke, dust, an eyelash, chemical exposure, and eye strain can all cause excess tear production in response to irritation. 

4) Infection

When eye infections strike, our bodies often react by producing excess tears. This is an attempt to keep our eyes lubricated and to wash away germs and discharge. Conjunctivitis (aka “pink eye”) and blepharitis (infection of the eyelid margins) are two infectious diseases known to cause watery eyes. Eye infections are often caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, and can be accompanied by eye pain, blurred vision, redness, gritty feelings in the eyes, discharge, and crust that forms at night. 

If you’ve got watery eyes, it’s probably nothing to worry about—tear production is just what our eyes do. But if, however, you experience unexplained tearing over a long period of time, or have painful watery eyes, you should contact your eye doctor and set up an eye exam.

If you’d like to learn about how you can save on an eye exam, glasses, and contacts, learn more about VSP Individual Vision plans benefits and savings.

Information received through VSP Individual Vision Plans' social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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