Eye Won’t Stop Watering, How to Stop It, Causes and Meaning of Runny Eyes

Eyes won’t stop watering? Well, that can be quite a bother but it is generally not a serious health concern. Even then, watery eyes can be treated easily using over-the-counter products as well as home remedies which are discussed herein, in addition to possible causes of the condition.

Shedding of tears is a normal function of the eye. Tears help to keep the eyes lubricated and flush out foreign particles and substances (such as dust, insects, etc) from the eyes and surrounding areas.

Eye won’t stop watering, causes and how to stop it
Eye won’t stop watering, causes and how to stop it

Eye Watering Meaning

What does it mean when one eye won’t stop watering or tearing? When you blink, tears spread and help to keep the inside of the eye moist. The tears are then discharged through the tear ducts (into the nose) and through evaporation (into the atmosphere).

When produced in excessive quantities, however, tears can result in excessive and bothersome eye-watering (commonly described as watery eyes or runny eyes).

Excessive Watering of Eye Meaning – What does it mean to have runny eyes?

Excessive eye-watering has basically two meanings:

  1. Excessive tear secretion: Over-secretion of tears is the most obvious meaning of excessive eye watering. It can be caused by irritation or inflammation of the eye surface or by any condition that triggers the dry-eye syndrome.

    Excessive tear secretion from tear ducts could cause runny eyes. Photo credit - Cornea-dc
    Excessive tear secretion from tear ducts could cause runny eyes. Photo credit – Cornea-dc
  2. Poor tear drainage from the eye: Excessive tearing can also mean that your tear drainage channels are not draining tears normally due to blockage of tear ducts or narrowed openings among other factors.

Eye Won’t Stop Watering, causes, why won’t my eye stop watering?

This is how it goes: you suddenly develop excessively watery eyes which give them a glassy look, not to mention occasional (and sometimes constant) dripping of tears down the cheeks for no apparent reason leaving you to wonder, “Why won’t my eye stop watering?”

Medically known as epiphora, excessive eye watering (or excessive tearing if you like) may be due to one or more of the following causes:

Meibomian glands problem may cause eye-watering

If your eye won’t stop watering, a problem with your Meibomian glands could be to blame.

Lacrimal glands beneath the upper eyelids secrete a liquid comprising of water and salt, the tears. Separate glands called Meibomian glands secrete oils that mix with the tears and thus prevent their rapid evaporation as well as spill-off from the eyes.

When Meibomian glands function is affected for whatever reason, a condition medically referred to as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD, eyed develop dry patches and get sore. The body responds by triggering the secretion of more tears as a reflex, eventually culminating in watering eye.

According to the UK National Health Service website, Meibomian gland dysfunction is the most likely trigger of runny eyes.

Blocked Tear Ducts in one eye

Tear ducts help to drain away tears after they have their role in lubricating the eyes. Tears pass through small openings in the inner side of the eyelids, called puncta. These are located on the edges of the eyelids next to the nose.

If a tear duct gets blocked for whatever reason, tear drainage is hampered, leading to watery eyes.

Blocked tear duct and watery, tearing or runny eyes
Blocked tear duct and watery, tearing or runny eyes. Photo Credit: Eye specialist

As the Mayo Clinic says, a blocked or immature (not fully opened) tear duct is a common cause of constant eye watering in infants. In infants, the condition manifests itself in watering eyes that produce tears which dry out and turn crusty, but in most cases, it clears away in just a few months without necessitating treatment.

The problem of blocked tear ducts is also relatively common in older adults. This commonly happens when the muscles holding the eyelids intact against the eyeball relax. When that happens, the surface of the eye tends to dry out resulting in constant irritation and eye-watering(as a reflex to counteract the dryness).

Allergies may cause burning, stinging and hurting watering eyes

Eye that won’t stop watering coupled with symptoms such as reddened eyes, itching, burning, stinging and hurting (painful) eyes so to speak is often indicative of an allergy.

Allergy may cause runny eyes or watery eyes, and you may experience itchiness
Allergy may cause runny eyes or watery eyes, and you may experience itchiness

Eye allergies occur when a normally harmless substance triggers allergic reactions in individuals with over-sensitive immune systems. Such substances are referred to as allergens and include dust mite, mold, pollen (which causes hay fever), and pet dander.

Irritation caused by exposure to substances such as exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, perfumes, and aerosol sprays can also cause eye allergy and eventually culminate in runny eyes. Preservatives in eye drops (including artificial tears) may as well cause eye allergies.

Lastly, food and insect stings (e.g. bee sting) allergies may also affect the eyes but these tend to cause mild watering of the eyes.

If your eyes are always watery, chances are that you have an allergen in your surrounding area.

Common cold and runny eyes or constantly tearing eyes

Common cold is another common cause of watery eyes. This is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat to be precise) which affects most people at some point in their life.

Common cold and other sicknesses are associated with tearing eyes
Common cold and other sicknesses are associated with tearing eyes

Over 100 viruses are known to cause the common cold and as a result, signs and symptoms vary dramatically among individuals and between bouts of the disease.

Infants and preschool children are the highest risk of developing common cold but anyone can get it, including the adults. As a matter of fact, most people get at least one bout of cold each year.

Among the most common symptoms of common cold are a runny nose, cough, sore throat, runny eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion. As a viral infection, common cold has to run its full course which usually takes a week or two.

Eye Infection or sickness

If only one eye keeps watering constantly, it could be a case of an infection. With time, the watering may move on to the next eye as the infection spread to both eyes.

In this context, eye watering occurs as a result of the body’s attempt to fight the infection.  Extra tears help to wash off the pathogens responsible for the infection while keeping the eye lubricated.

The two most common culprits for runny eyes are conjunctivitis (pink eye) and blepharitis.

Typically caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, conjunctivitis is an infection of the thin, clear mucus membrane that covers most part of the eye. Contact lenses are known to increase the risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include gritty feeling in the eyes (as though you have foreign bodies in there), blurred vision, redness, pain, and increased tearing in the eye.

Washing the eyes with salty water or tea solution is usually an effective home remedy for conjunctivitis but if necessary, over-the-counter eye drops are also helpful.

Blepharitis on the other hand is an infection of the eyelid margins and usually affects the outside of the skin where it causes crusting and peeling. Applying warm compresses and washing the eyelids with soapy water are usually an effective remedy for blepharitis.

Poked Eye, Sickness, too much wind, cutting onions and cold cause runny eyes

Runny eyes are not always the result of sickness or an underlying eye condition. Some environmental factors may as well be to blame including:

Cutting onions, poked eye or injured eyes may become runny all day
Cutting onions, a poked eye or injured eyes may become runny all day
  • Cutting onions. Onions are a popular cooking ingredient, but they are also notorious for their sharp sting and sometimes tearing.
  • Injury: An injury to the eye (a scraped, cut, or poked eye for example) can also cause eye watering in one eye or both. A poked eye for example tends to begins a discharge of tears
  • Harsh weather conditions: Extremely cold weather especially one that is also characterized by too much wind can also lay grounds for an eye that won’t stop watering. The same is also true of extremely sunny days as excessive exposure to the sun can dry the eyes, making the eye to respond by excessive secretion of tears

How to stop eyes from watering when sick, cutting onions, from allergies and cold

How to stop eyes from watering depends on the underlying causative factor for the runny eye(s).  In most instances, the problem will clear up on its own without treatment but there are several intervention measures that can be used if the excessive tearing doesn’t stop (or you want to make it clear fast) including:

Lubricating Eye drops

Over-the counter and prescription lubricating eye drops can be used for cases where dry eye syndrome (due to whichever factor) is thought to be the culprit behind the eye that won’t stop watering.

Otherwise known as artificial tears, the eye drops not only help to keep your eyes moist but also help to flush out any foreign substances such as dust.

Medicated eye drops

Over the counter anti-allergy eye drops the likes of Zaditor and Alaway and prescription and prescription eye drops the likes of Lastacaft and Bepreve may as well offer relief from allergies that trigger watering of the eye.

These work by interrupting the immune response to the offending substances – the allergens – which then relieves the eyes of the watering and other symptoms.

Allergy medications

Allergy medications may also be required to treat the condition. The treatment regime may incorporate one or more of the following: antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. ibuprofen, steroids or immunotherapy (involving the injection of small amounts of the allergen over time).

Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat cases that involve eye infection.

Surgery: Surgery is yet another likely treatment option for an eye or eyes that won’t stop watering. It is typically used to correct blocked tear ducts and typically involves either a repair or the creation of a new tear duct drainage system, a procedure referred to as dacryocystorhinostomy.

Home Remedies and Tips on How to Stop Eye Watering

  • Identify and avoid exposure to substances that trigger allergic reactions (allergens) or irritation.
  • Place a small piece of cloth that has been dipped in warm water on closed eyes several times daily. This can help to clear blocked ducts.
  • If the top surface or the rim of the upper eyelid is peeling off, wash it frequently with soapy water
  • To stop eye watering when cutting onions, place the onion in the refrigerators for 30 minutes or so (or in the freezer for 15 minutes) prior to chopping. There are also goggles nowadays designed to keep the onion sting away from your eyes.
  • For what to do to stop eye watering when you have a cold, you really need to do nothing as it will clear with time, but if it pretty bothersome taking antihistamines can help.

How to Stop Eye Watering When Wearing Makeup

Eye watering when wearing makeup may be an indication that you are allergic to the brand of makeup you use.

Your first bet would be to ensure that you are applying the makeup properly to avoid getting it into your eyes.

According to Matheson Harris, an eye and facial plastic surgeon and ophthalmologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, you should apply your makeup only up to boundaries of the eyelashes above and below the eyelids.

Dr. Harris also recommends staying away from powdery types of makeup as they tend to more easily enter the eyes and instead use the creamy types which tend to flake less easily. Glittering and metallic brands also enter the eyes relatively easily and should be struck out of your list.

What about if you have constant reactions after using makeup? Well, Dr. Harris says that it could be a sign of an allergy. In that case, your best course of action would be to stop using all your brands for a while and the reintroduce them each at a time to see which one is triggering the allergic reactions.

If you find that you are allergic to all of the makeup products, then it would be in your best interest to switch to products labeled “non-hypoallergenic” or “non-allergenic”.

Here’s a video on tearing or watering eye

Sources and References:

About Dr. Joe Morales 224 Articles
Dr. Joe is a South Africa based health and medical researcher for Treat Cure Fast. Dr. Joe believes in spreading health knowledge as much as possible to promote safety and overall health. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

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