Understanding Watery Eyes: 11 Different Reasons

When foreign substances like dirt or dust enter the eye, our body responds by producing excess tears to flush them out.

Even tiny particles in smoke or chemicals in onions can trigger this natural response. Once the irritant is removed, tearing usually stops. However, there are various health conditions that can also cause excessive tearing. Let’s explore what they are.

Dry Eyes

Your eyes might water because they do not produce enough tears, dry up too quickly, or have an imbalance of tear components like oils and mucus. Many factors, from environmental conditions like strong winds to underlying health issues, can dry out your eyes. In response, your eyes produce excess tears.


Commonly known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a frequent cause of watery eyes in both children and adults. This inflammation can make one or both eyes appear pink or red and feel irritated, akin to having sand in the eyes. The primary causes of conjunctivitis are bacterial and viral infections. While viral infections often resolve without treatment, bacterial conjunctivitis may require antibiotic eye drops.

Eye Allergies

Watery and itchy eyes often accompany other classic allergy symptoms like coughing and a runny nose. Eye allergies can be treated with allergy medications, eye drops, and avoiding triggers such as pollen, mold, and pet dander. Unlike the common cold, which can cause watery eyes without irritation, allergies typically result in irritation, helping distinguish between the two.

Blocked Tear Ducts

Normally, tears flow from the tear glands above the eye, spreading over the eye’s surface and draining into ducts at the eye corners. If these ducts are blocked, tears accumulate, leading to watery eyes. This blockage can be caused by infections, injuries, or even aging.

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Improper Eyelid Function

Our eyelids function like wipers; blinking spreads tears over the eye and removes excess moisture. However, issues like entropion (eyelids curving inward) or ectropion (eyelids curving outward) can impede this function, causing watery eyes. Surgical correction is often necessary.

Corneal Abrasions

Dirt, sand, and contact lenses can scratch the eye’s outer layer, the cornea, leading to red, painful, and light-sensitive eyes. While these scratches usually heal within a day or two, medical attention is recommended to prevent infection.


Styes usually present as swollen, red, and painful lumps along the eyelid’s edge, caused by bacterial infection. They generally resolve on their own within a few days, but applying a warm cloth can ease the pain.


In some cases, eyelashes may grow inward rather than outward, a condition known as trichiasis. This can occur following an infection, injury, or other issues, causing eye irritation and excess tearing. A doctor can remove or redirect the problematic lashes.


Blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelids, causes symptoms like tingling, tearing, and redness. It could result from infections, rosacea, or allergies. While manageable with treatment, the condition can recur.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

The meibomian glands produce oil at the edge of your eyes, essential for maintaining eye health. If these glands are blocked or insufficiently produce oil, your eyes can become irritated and watery. Warm compresses are often an effective treatment.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Various medical conditions, such as Bell’s palsy, SjΓΆgren’s syndrome, chronic sinus infections, thyroid issues, and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause watery eyes, as can treatments like chemotherapy. If you frequently experience watery eyes without a clear cause, it’s important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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