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What causes watery eyes?

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Updated April 23, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What causes watery eyes?
Why are my eyes so watery? It seems like tears are running down my face all the time. Is there anything that can stop watery eyes?
Answer: It may sound strange, but watery eyes are often a sign of dryness. Your eyes depend on tears for lubrication and for keeping your eyes clean of debris. If your tear glands don't produce the correct quantity or quality of tears, you may develop dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of moisture in the eye that causes discomfort.

When your eyes become dry and uncomfortable, the tear glands react by producing large amounts of tears, a process known as reflex tearing. Reflex tears contain more water and less mucus and oils than regular tears. Because reflex tears are of poor quality, they don't do a good job alleviating dryness. Even more tears are produced, creating a vicious circle.

Other causes of watery eyes include the following:

If your eyes are watering, a detailed eye examination by your eye care provider can help identify the cause. Treatment will depend on the cause.

Source:

Fekrat, Sharon, MD and Jennifer S. Weizer, MD. All About Your Eyes. Duke University Press, 2006.

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