Merck Manual

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Some Causes and Features of Watery Eyes

Some Causes and Features of Watery Eyes

Cause

Common Features*

Disorders that cause excess tear production

Watering that is worse when eyes are exposed to cold or windy weather, cigarette smoke, or dry heat

A feeling of something in the eye (foreign object [body] sensation) that comes and goes, especially toward the end of the day

Irritation of the eye surface due to

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the back of the eyelid and covers the front of the eye) caused by allergies, chemicals, or infection

  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the edges of the eyelids)

  • Entropion (an inwardly turned eyelid) and trichiasis (inwardly turned eyelashes)

  • Corneal scratches and foreign body (scratches or foreign objects involving the surface of the transparent dome on the front surface of the eye)

Eye redness

In people with allergic conjunctivitis, itching

In people with an inwardly turned eyelid and eyelashes, often a sensation of grittiness or something in the eye

In people with corneal scratch or foreign body, pain, light sensitivity, and a sensation of grittiness or something in the eye

Nasal irritation caused by allergies or an upper respiratory infection

Runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion

Disorders that block tear drainage

Congenital dacryostenosis (blockage of a tear duct that is present at birth)

Symptoms that begin weeks after birth

Acquired dacryostenosis (age-related narrowing of tear ducts)

Watery eyes that gradually become worse as people age

Entropion (an inwardly turned eyelid)

Usually seen during the examination

Dacryocystitis (infection of the tear sac)

Pain or discomfort near the corner of the eye and along the side of the nose

Often swelling, redness, tenderness, and warmth in the same area

Ectropion (an outwardly turned eyelid)

Usually seen during the examination

Often in older people

Sometimes a hard lump near the tear sac

Other causes (such as injuries or drugs)

Usually in people who know they have such causes

* Features include symptoms and the results of the doctor's examination. Features mentioned are typical but not always present.