Your eye health

Watery eyes

Watery eyes can be due to different causes. Find out about the symptoms of weeping eyes, what causes them and the treatments and remedies available.

One or both eyes may produce excess tears. We cry when we are happy and we cry when we are sad, but sometimes our eyes just keep producing tears to the extent that it is a nuisance, and in this case it is called epiphora, lacrimation or tearing. Alone or accompanied by other symptoms such as irritation or pain, lacrimation may occur for different reasons in children or adults.

It is usually a harmless phenomenon, but sometimes may require eye examinations and immediate medical attention. Read about triggering factors and what you can do to relieve watery eyes.


What are tears?

Tears are the eye’s natural defence and lubrication mechanism.

Lachrymal glands in the upper eyelid continuously secrete tears, which coat the eyeball and drain through the lachrymal punctum located in the corner of the eye near the nose. They then enter the tear ducts and drain down the back of the nose.

In normal situations, tear secretion and drainage are in balance to ensure proper hydration of the eyes and therefore protection of sight, but sometimes this mechanism can be upset. Unless caused by the presence of a foreign body, eye watering is considered abnormal when it is excessive or gets in the way of your daily life. In such cases, it is the result of two phenomena:

  • excessive production of tears, or,
  • blockage of the tear drainage channels.

You do not usually need to see a doctor or an ophthalmologist if you have watery eyes. However, if you experience certain symptoms, you should seek medical advice:

  • If your eyes water for several consecutive days, or frequently,
  • If you experience other unusual symptoms along with watery eyes (secretion of pus, redness of the eyes, pain, impaired vision, irritation, feeling as if you have a grain of sand in your eye, etc.).

Why do we get watery eyes?

An eye that waters excessively may indicate an eye condition. The cause must be identified so that the right treatment can be prescribed. Correct diagnosis requires analysis of the accompanying symptoms.


Pathologies that causes watery eyes

The most common causes of watery eyes in both adults and children are described below:

  • allergies (e.g. : allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis)
  • dry eye syndrome
  • eversion of the eyelids (medical term ectropion) or ingrown eyelashes (trichiasis)
  • an eye or upper respiratory infection (e.g. : infectious conjunctivitis)
  • constriction or blockage of the tear ducts
  • irritation caused by external factors or the environment (wind, foreign body, pollution, smoke, a blast of cold air, dry atmosphere, etc.)
  • a corneal condition (e.g. : keratitis)
  • chronic inflammation of the eyelids (e.g. : blepharitis)
  • more rarely, a tumour or neurological damage

Watery eyes in children can also be caused by congenital glaucoma, a rare but serious condition that can lead to blindness.

Watery eyes in the elderly can be caused by age-related constriction of the tear ducts, and also by systemic medication (e.g. : anti-depressants).

Symptoms accompanying watery eyes

Watery eyes may be the only symptom, occurring in the morning when you wake up, from time to time or throughout the day, or may be accompanied by other clinical symptoms:

  • eye pain
  • eye irritation, itchy eyes or burning sensation
  • redness
  • impaired visual acuity
  • swelling around the eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • general symptoms (temperature, fatigue, shivering, etc.);
  • a hard lump near the tear ducts

Establishing the presence or absence of other clinical symptoms is essential for reaching a diagnosis:

  • An infection such as conjunctivitis can lead to watery eyes, secretion of pus and redness at the same time.
  • As for allergies, they are characterised by eye redness and watering and more general symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose.
  • In the event of visual impairment accompanied by eye redness and watering, this may indicate keratitis.
  • Lastly, dry eye syndrome causes eyes to water and also to feel itchy, or as if they have a grain of sand in them.

Whatever the cause, if the accompanying symptoms do not get better, or rapidly worsen, it is essential to seek medical advice.

How should watery eyes be treated?

Watery eyes are usually harmless and do not require any special treatment. However, if your eyes water excessively or persistently, or if you experience any other accompanying symptoms, you should see an ophthalmologist as a matter of urgency. He or she will ask you some questions and perform an eye examination.

Medical examinations and treatment for watery eyes

Medical advice should be sought if your eyes water excessively, or without apparent reason, bother you or are accompanied by other symptoms. The ophthalmologist will then be able to identify and treat the cause of abnormal eye watering.

Once the ophthalmologist has ruled out the most common causes, he or she may then perform more detailed examinations, such as inserting a probe into the punctum to see if there is any obstruction, or imaging techniques (radiography, scan, nasal endoscopy).

The cause of excessive eye watering must then be treated with medication, and by recommending specific interventions:

  • For an allergy, eye wash or antiseptic solutions should be used. The ophthalmologist may also prescribe anti-allergy medication, recommend to the patient that they keep the air inside their home as clean as possible, and avoid exposure to allergens.
  • For dry eye syndrome, regular application of artificial tears can reduce eye watering.
  • For an infection, antiseptic eye drops and/or antibiotics may be necessary.

Some causes of watery eyes, particularly obstructed tear ducts in babies or toddlers, require medical intervention. In such cases, the ophthalmologist inserts a tiny probe into the tear duct to unblock it and restore normal physiological drainage of tears.

In adults, surgery may be necessary to create a new drainage duct for tears.

Simple, natural ways to soothe watery eyes 

To supplement medical treatments or in mild cases, some simple solutions can help alleviate the discomfort of watery eyes:

  • Place lukewarm water compresses on one or both eyes for 5 to 10 minutes, once or twice a day.
  • Rinse one or both eyes with saline solution every day.
  • Practise rapid eye blinking sessions several times a day to increase eyeball lubrication.
  • Use homoeopathic eye drops and take homoeopathic granules as indicated by your pharmacist.
  • Apply artificial tears to lubricate the surface of the eyeball.

But take note, these natural solutions are only supplements to treatment and must not take precedence over medical advice if watery eyes persist.


(1)  Bruno Fayet, Emmanuel Racy, « Larmoiement : que faire ? », », La Revue du Praticien. Médecine Générale, Vol. 24, n° 838, mars 2010, pp. 237-8.

(2). Améli, Corps étranger dans l'œil [en ligne]. Available at:

(3). Michel Tazartes, « Larmoiement du sujet âgé : les causes sont multiples », La Revue du Praticien. Médecine Générale, Vol. 33, n° 1018, March 2019, pp. 249-50.