Common Eye Problems: Watery Eyes

As humans, we generally equate tears with strong emotion…or onions. But what if your eyes start watering for no reason? Well, it’s usually nothing to get anxious over, and often times an over-the-counter solution will help. Let’s take a look at a few ways our eyes set off the water works: 

Dry-eye syndrome

Yes, it does sound crazy that dry eyes can cause watery ones, but it’s true—when our eyes dry out, they become irritated and uncomfortable. This causes the glands in our eyes to go into overdrive, producing more tears than our eye’s natural drainage system can handle. Dry eyes can be caused by a number of medical conditions and medications, as well as dry, windy environments and old age. The most common cause of dry-eye syndrome, however, is a chronic condition called Keratoconjuctivitis (KCS), where the eyes make tears that do not contain enough water. Mild cases of dry-eye syndrome are nothing to be worried about, and many over-the-counter remedies, such as eye drops, are readily available. 


An allergic reaction can cause your eyes to become red and irritated, often resulting in tear production, itching, and burning. The most common outdoor allergens that can irritate your eyes are grass, tree, and weed pollens, while pet dander, dust mites, and molds are among the most common indoor allergens. Exhaust fumes, aerosol sprays, perfumes, and cigarette smoke can also cause itchy, water eyes (though these aren’t true allergens). If you suspect that allergies are behind your overactive tear ducts, talk to your doctor to find out what steps can be taken to remedy the situation. 


By far the most common cause of watery eyes, irritants affect us all. Dry air, bright light, wind, smoke, dust, an eyelash, chemical exposure, and eye strain can all cause excess tear production in response to irritation. 


When eye infections strike, our bodies often react by producing excess tears. This is an attempt to keep our eyes lubricated and to wash away germs and discharge. Conjunctivitis (aka “pink eye”) and blepharitis (infection of the eyelid margins) are two infectious diseases known to cause watery eyes. Eye infections are often caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, and can be accompanied by eye pain, blurred vision, redness, gritty feelings in the eyes, discharge, and crust that forms at night. 

If you’ve got watery eyes, it’s probably nothing to worry about—tear production is just what our eyes do. But if, however, you experience unexplained tearing over a long period of time, or have painful watery eyes, you should contact your family doctor to get the scoop. 

Visit our Find an Eye Doctor page to confirm that your doctor accepts VSP Direct vision insurance.

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