There’s nothing more annoying than wiping at a runny nose or blinking away excess tears throughout the day. While these can be normal bodily functions, there are times when excessive tears can be a symptom of an underlying condition. Watery eyes are also known as epiphora, an issue many people suffer from each year, and can be a common symptom of various eye disorders or conditions. It’s common for people to experience watery eyes, especially in areas like Lancaster County, PA, where the climate can contribute to dryness and irritation. This discomfort can stem from several underlying causes, including dry eye syndrome, conjunctivitis, and more. If you are struggling with excessively watery eyes, keep reading to learn more about some of the reasons why this may be an issue for you.
1. Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a prevalent condition resulting from insufficient or poor-quality tear production by the lacrimal and accessory lacrimal glands, which are integral to eye health and clear vision. When tear production is inadequate or evaporates too quickly due to issues like meibomian gland dysfunction or hormonal changes, symptoms such as a dry, gritty sensation, redness, and, paradoxically, watery eyes can occur. This excess tearing is an overcompensation by the lacrimal system responding to ocular surface irritation.
Treatment options for dry eye syndrome vary based on severity and underlying causes. They often involve artificial tears or medicated eye drops to supplement natural tear production. Surgical intervention may be necessary to address tear duct blockages or eyelid-related issues in severe cases. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment guidance.
Seasonal allergies are hypersensitive reactions of the immune system to typically harmless environmental substances, known as allergens. These allergens can involve plant pollen, dust mites, molds, insect stings, certain foods, or pet dander. In people with allergies, these allergens trigger an immune system overreaction, leading to various symptoms. One such symptom is watery eyes, often caused by allergic rhinitis or a reaction to airborne allergens. The body releases histamines when it encounters an allergen, causing eye inflammation and leading to excess tearing.
Apart from watery eyes, allergies can also cause a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, or in severe cases, asthma. Seasonal allergies, like springtime pollen allergies, often result in bouts of excess tearing and other symptoms, often called “allergic conjunctivitis.” Management of allergies usually involves avoiding allergens where possible and taking medications to control symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines and eye drops can often help manage watery eyes due to allergies. For severe cases, immunotherapy may be recommended. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan if you’re experiencing allergy symptoms.
3. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis, often called “pink eye,” is a common eye condition characterized by the inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Various factors, including allergies, bacterial or viral infections, or exposure to irritants like smoke or dust can trigger the condition. Symptoms typically include redness in the white of the eye, an increase in tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eyes. There may also be itching and burning. In some cases, an unusual amount of tear production or a sticky yellow discharge that crusts over the lashes, especially after sleep, may also occur. Conjunctivitis can be highly contagious, so it’s essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you have this condition to prevent its spread. Treatment varies depending on the cause but often involves prescription eye drops or ointments to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
4. Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction
Watery eyes can be a symptom of multiple factors, including nasolacrimal duct obstruction or blocked tear ducts. The lacrimal system, which includes the lacrimal gland and tear ducts, is responsible for tear production and drainage. The tears have nowhere to go when there’s a blockage, such as a partial nasolacrimal duct obstruction, which can lead to excess tears and a constantly runny nose. Several other symptoms, such as ocular irritation, blurred vision, or even eye pain in severe cases, may accompany this.
A diagnosis typically involves assessing these symptoms and potentially conducting an eyelid surgery or a balloon dilation to examine the nasolacrimal system. Treatment depends on the accurate diagnosis, ranging from eye drops to surgical procedures. In cases of insufficient drainage due to eyelid laxity or eyelid malpositions, oculoplastic practice might be necessary.
In many patients, watchful waiting can be a practical approach. But if the condition persists, seeking professional help to prevent complications like a painful lump from an inflamed lacrimal sac or a corneal ulcer due to constant ocular surface irritation is essential. Always consult with a healthcare professional for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
5. Foreign Body or Irritant in the Eye
Foreign bodies or irritants in the eye, such as wind, smoke, or a speck of dust, can trigger an increased production of tears as a defense mechanism. This reflex, known as the lacrimal reflex, aims to protect the eye by flushing out the irritant to prevent further harm. In some cases, persistent irritation and tearing may occur if the foreign body becomes embedded or the irritant, like chlorine or onion fumes, is powerful. Suppose the excess tearing continues after the irritant appears to be gone or cannot be easily removed. In that case, seek medical attention to prevent potential complications like corneal abrasions or infections.
Watery Eyes Causing Irritation?
Watery eyes, or epiphoria, can irritate and disrupt your daily life. If you have watery eyes and you’re searching for relief, we can help, no matter the cause. Contact us today at Campus Eye Center to schedule your appointment and learn more about why your eyes are watering!