Excessive tearing is a condition in which tears spill out of your eyes even though you are not crying.
What is the cause?
Tears normally drain into the nose through small holes in the corners of the upper and lower eyelids. When there is too much tearing for this system to handle or not enough drainage, tears can spill over.
Dry eye syndrome is the most common cause of excessive tearing. It happens when the normal, lubricating tears that keep your eye moist are too few or dry out too quickly. When your eye is irritated by the dryness, your eye starts making too many tears. Other types of irritation, such as infection, allergies, or eyelashes rubbing against your eye, can also cause excess tears.
Scarring due to infection, certain medicines, or injury may block the holes that drain tears and cause an overflow. Some babies are born with a blockage in the drainage system. This will cause tearing and discharge for many months, but it usually gets better as children get older.
Sometimes your eyelids are turned in such a way that the small draining holes on your eyelids do not face the right way. This can cause a tear problem as well.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes, and do vision tests. Your provider will check the health of your eyes to make sure that the symptoms are not caused by an infection or other medical condition.
How is it treated?
Treatment of tearing depends on the cause. For example, if your eye is watery because of an infection, treatment of the infection will reduce the tearing. If you have dry eye syndrome, you may need to use artificial tears eyedrops or warm, moist cloths on your eyes to help keep your eyes moist. If the drainage system is blocked or the position of your eyelids is causing the tearing, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-27 Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Eye Waters Too Much (Excessive Tearing): References
American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2013-2014 Basic and Clinical Science Course. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013; v.1-13.
Krachmer JH, Mannis MJ and Holland EJ, eds. Cornea, 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2010;v.1-2.
Yanoff M and Duker JS. Ophthalmology, 4th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2013.