Watery or Teary Eyes: Causes, Treatments,

& When to Seek Help

Watery eyes are a common condition and most times, you should have nothing serious to worry about. However, if watery eyes persist or become a chronic problem especially if other symptoms are present then an eye doctor’s visit should be top of mind.

Tears are made of water, salt and over 1,500 nutrients. They are a natural product of our glands under the upper eyelids. 

Tears serve dual purposes: one to keep the eyes lubricated and two to rinse away contaminants in the eye. When we blink, tears spread to cover the eye and keep it moist.

Makeup of Tears

Tears have three distinct layers. 

  1. Mucous layer: The innermost layer of the tear film, which keeps tears on the surface of the eye. 
  2. Aqueous layer: This is the largest layer of the three. It provides hydration, protects the cornea and keeps out bacteria.
  3. Oily layer: Some glands in the eye produce oils. These serve to keep the tear and the other layers from quickly evaporating or from overflowing out of the eye. The oily layer also maintains the smooth surface of the tear so we can see through it.

Normal Causes of Watery Eyes

We produce heavy tears when yawning, crying or laughing. When experiencing strong perfumes, other odours or weather like cold, dry, sunny, or windy days will also set off a temporary overproduction of tears.

One of the other main causes of teary eyes are dry eyes, which is sometimes diagnosed as dry eye syndrome. When our eyes are not properly hydrated, they naturally produce excess tears. The second reason causing overproduction of tears is when our tears do not have the correct mix of salt, oils, and water leading tears to dry out too fast.

Other reasons for dry eyes include:

  • Allergies and irritation (conjunctivitis) 
  • Inflamed eyelid (blepharitis) 
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Chemicals and/ or pollutants in the environment
  • Common illnesses such as colds
  • Ingrown eyelashes (trichiasis)
  • Certain medications and chemotherapy
  • Eyedrops, especially echothiophate iodide and pilocarpine
  • Eye strain
  • Inwardly turned eyelid or eyelid drooping away (ectropion)
  • Outwardly turned eyelid (entropion)

Chronic Watery Eyes

If the problem persists and watery eyes do not resolve by themselves, there may be a more serious underlying problem. Tears are not harmful by themselves and will not cause damage, but it is important to check your symptoms with an eye doctor (Optometrist)

Consult with an eye care professional or Optometrist especially if watery eyes are accompanied by:

  • Pain or injuries to the eye
  • Vision loss or changes
  • Foreign objects or discharge in eye
  • Red, irritated, or swollen eyes
  • Sinus pain, infection, and swelling
  • Severe headaches 
  • Injuries and scratches or bruising around the eyes


Typically no treatment is required. However, if a health condition or eye injury is causing this, your treatment may vary. Treatments can include:

  • Eye drops or prescription eye drops
  • Allergy treatments
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • For blocked tear ducts, a hot, wet towel or warm compress product applied several times a day to the eyes can help
  • Surgical intervention to fix tear drainage ducts

Note: the symptoms shown here are often associated with these causes. Be sure to work with your eye doctor or health care professional for a correct diagnosis.