Watery eye is a common problem, in which tears are constantly produced from your eye.
The medical term for watery eye is ‘epiphora’. In most cases, watery eye will go away on its own, but it may sometimes become chronic and need further treatment.
Mr Ahmad Aziz is an oculoplastic consultant at King Edward VII’s Hospital who is an expert in lacrimal disease – meaning excessive tearing of the eye. Here, he explains what watery eye is, and how it can be diagnosed and treated.
What is watery eye?
Your eyes are constantly producing tears, not just when you cry, and they lubricate the eyes. The fluid drains through your tear drainage system to the nose, through a passage known as the nasolacrimal duct.
In some people, the balance of tear production and tear drainage can fail. You produce too many tears and as a result, the eye becomes excessively watery.
Symptoms of watery eye include:
- Constant tearing, which can result in blurred vision and irritation to the eyelid skin
- Constant sticky eye
- Blurry vision
- Irritated eyelids
- Itchy eye
It tends to affect children and older people more, although watery eye can affect people at any age. It can also impact your social life, as other people may think you’re crying even when you’re not – which can feel embarrassing and, in some cases, even lead to social isolation.
Causes of watery eye
The most common cause of watery eye, particularly when you’re outdoors, is dry eye syndrome, which paradoxically results in excessive tear production.
Other common causes of watery eye include:
- an eye infection, such as conjunctivitis
- something entering the eye, such as a speck of dust or an eyelash
- allergies, particularly in those that suffer from hay fever or from prolonged contact lens use
- malposition of the eyelid, such as an entropion – when the eyelid turns inwards – or an ectropion- where the eyelid turns outwards
Watery eye diagnosis
Watery eye is diagnosed after a consultation with an oculoplastic ophthalmologist.
A thorough assessment of the eyes, eyelids, tear drainage and nasolacrimal duct is needed, to conclude what treatment is required.
Watery eye treatment
The majority of people can treat their watery eye with eye drops, hot flannels or anti-allergy medications (if allergies are the cause).
In chronic cases, though, surgery may be needed. Dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) is the most common procedure that is performed. It will help if your watery eye is caused by a blockage in your tear drainage tubes.
DCR surgery bypasses the blocked tear duct to allow tears to drain into the nose, as they previously did prior to the blockage.
The most common way of performing the surgery is externally, which results in a scar on the side of the nose. Our surgeons specialise in the more modern, telescopic approach. This surgery goes through the nose, and is known as endonasal or endoscopic DCR. A major benefit is that it results in no scars on the nose or the face.