Epiphora (Watering Eyes)



What is epiphora?

Epiphora — more commonly referred to as watering eyes — is when you have excessive tear production. There is insufficient tear film drainage from the eye or eyes. Instead of the tears draining through the nasolacrimal system, they overflow onto the face. Tears are needed to keep the front surface of the eye healthy and maintain clear vision, but too many tears can make it difficult to see. This can make driving difficult or dangerous.

How common is epiphora?

Epiphora is common. It can develop at any age, but it is more common in those aged under 12 months or over 60 years. It may affect one or both eyes. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can epiphora usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Enlarged, visible blood vesselsin the eye
  • Eye soreness
  • Sharp painin the eye
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity


What causes epiphora?

Watery eyes can be due to many factors and conditions.

In infants, persistent watery eyes, often with some matter, are commonly the result of blocked tear ducts. The tear ducts don’t produce tears, but rather carry away tears, similar to how a storm drain carries away rainwater. Tears normally drain into your nose through tiny openings (puncta) in the inner part of the lids near the nose. In babies, the tear duct may not be fully open and functioning for the first several months of life.

In older adults, persistent watery eyes may occur as the aging skin of the eyelids sags away from the eyeball, allowing tears to accumulate and flow out.

Sometimes, excess tear production may cause watery eyes as well.

Allergies or viral infections (conjunctivitis), as well as any kind of inflammation, may cause watery eyes for a few days or so.

Medication causes include:

  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Epinephrine
  • Eyedrops, especially echothiophate iodide and pilocarpine

Common causes include:

  • Allergies
  • Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation)
  • Blocked tear duct
  • Common cold
  • Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Dry eyes (decreased production of tears)
  • Ectropion (outwardly turned eyelid)
  • Entropion (inwardly turned eyelid)
  • Foreign object in the eye: First aid
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Ingrown eyelash (trichiasis)
  • Keratitis (inflammation of the cornea)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Sty (a red, painful lump near the edge of your eyelid)
  • Tear duct infection
  • Trachoma

Other possible causes include:

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Blow to the eye or other eye injury
  • Burns
  • Chemical splash in the eye
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Radiation therapy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
  • Sarcoidosis (collections of inflammatory cells in the body)
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Surgery of the eye or nose
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Tumors affecting the tear drainage system
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of epiphora. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for epiphora?

There are many risk factors for epiphora, such as:

  • Age
  • Eye dryness
  • Irritation of the ocular surface
  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Nasal irritation and inflammation
  • Congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction
  • Use of certain medications

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:

  • Reduced vision
  • Pain around your eyes
  • A foreign body sensation
  • Persistent watery eyes

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage epiphora?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with epiphora:

  • Wash your hands regularly. Avoid touching your face to prevent spreading germs to your eyes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, you may be at higher risk of eye infections that lead to epiphora. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before placing or removing lenses. Clean lenses daily. Replace old or expired contact lenses.
  • Protect your eyes and sight and help prevent epiphora with small, consistent changes. Wear sun protection when you’re outside. Reduce eye strain by wearing protective glasses and limiting your time looking at screens. Make complete eye exams a part of your regular health checkups.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: January 7, 2019 | Last Modified: January 7, 2019

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