While tears play an important role in keeping your eyes healthy, helping lubricate them and washing away foreign particles, excess tear formation can lead to watery eyes.
Excessively watery eyes can be annoying and even impact your ability to see properly.
Watery eyes, medically known as epiphora, are a common eye condition that many people suffer from. Watery eyes mean there is an excess of tears, which can give the eyes a glassy look and lead to tears dripping from the eyes.
Epiphora can occur at any age. However, it is more common in babies, children under age 2 and adults over age 60.
Excess or an overproduction of tears can occur due to irritation or inflammation of the surface of the eye. This is the case, for example, when dry eyes actually lead to watery eyes. The body is responding to the irritation and lack of proper lubrication.
Some other common causes of watery eyes are allergies, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, narrowed or blocked tear ducts and eyelids that turn inward or outward.
Sometimes, excess tear production occurs when it is cold or windy or when a foreign object gets into the eyes. Also, eye injuries, burns, chemicals in the eye, chronic sinusitis, thyroid disorders and exposure to dust can trigger watery eyes.
Watery eyes may also be induced by certain medications, such as chemotherapy, epinephrine and some eye drops.
Watery eyes can cause irritation, severe itching or a burning sensation in the eyes. Also, the eyes can become red and sensitive to light. Watery eyes left untreated for too long can cause eye strain, which leads to pain.
To treat epiphora, it is important to find out the cause behind it. In most cases, watery eyes can be treated effectively with some simple home remedies.
Caution: Generally, watery eyes clear up within a few days. If the condition persists, you should see your doctor.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for watery eyes.
1. Frequent Rinsing
If you have watery eyes due to exposure to dust, harsh sun rays, pollen or any chemical, frequent rinsing with cool water is what you need to do.
Frequent rinsing will help clear the foreign body or chemical from your eyes, which in turn will reduce the symptoms.
To do so, open your eyes and simply start splashing some cool water into them. Do it several times to soothe your eyes and help get rid of the irritant that’s causing the problem.
In the meantime, avoid rubbing your eyes, as it will only worsen the symptoms.
2. Warm Compress
To deal with different causes of epiphora like eyelid inflammation, dry eyes and pink eyes, a warm compress is very effective.
The heat from the compress increases blood circulation to the area, soothes eye irritation and provides relief from the symptoms.
- Soak a clean, lint-free cloth in hot water (not too hot).
- Wring out the excess water.
- Apply this warm, moist cloth over your closed eyelids for 1 minute at a time.
- Rewet the cloth with warm water when it cools and continue doing it for not more than 10 minutes.
- Finally, rinse your eyes with lukewarm water (do not use the leftover warm water from the bowl you used to soak the washcloth).
- Use this treatment at least twice daily until your symptoms subside.
Caution: When using a compress for your eyes, try to maintain a temperature of 108° F and do not go above it.
3. Cold Compress
Just like a warm compress, a cold compress can also treat watery eyes.
The cold temperature will help tighten up the skin around your eyes as well as relax the blood vessels. This in turn will reduce the formation of excess tears and the associated symptoms.
- Dip a soft lint-free cloth in cold water and wring out the extra water. Place the cold washcloth on your closed eyelids for 1 minute. Again, dip the cloth in cold water and repeat the process for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat as needed.
- Alternatively, wrap a few ice cubes in a clean cloth. Place it on your closed eyelids for 1 minute. Take a 5-minute break before reapplying the compress for 1 minute. Do it 2 or 3 times a day.
4. Breast Milk
Breast milk is known to be the most perfect food for newborns and can also help fight eye infections that can cause watery eyes in infants.
It contains many antibodies, particularly immunoglobulin E that combats and cures conjunctivitis resulting from an allergic reaction.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics reports that drops of breast milk can be used as a treatment for infant epiphora (1).
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion reports that maternal education and exclusive breastfeeding are the most fundamental measures decreasing the incidence of various kinds of infections, such as neonatal conjunctivitis (2).
- Put a few drops of breast milk in the eye using a sterilized dropper.
- Repeat 3 or 4 times a day until the infection is cured.
5. Castor Oil
Castor oil is another good remedy for watery eyes.
First of all, it helps reduce tear evaporation in dry eyes, which is important for providing enough lubrication for your eyes. Also, its anti-inflammatory properties can help treat redness and swelling.
A 2007 study published in Cornea analyzed the efficacy of a 1.25% castor oil emulsion and a 0.32% hypromellose solution on the tear physiology of patients with mild to moderate dry eye. Researchers found that the oil-water emulsion was more effective in reducing tear evaporation than the hypromellose after repeated application over one month (3).
For this remedy, only use pure, organic, hexane-free castor oil.
- Using an eye dropper, place 1 drop of the castor oil in each eye.
- Repeat twice daily.
Eyebright is beneficial for different types of eye problems, including watery eyes. In particular, it is effective for treating different types of eye infections that can cause this irritating problem.
The infection-fighting and fluid-drying power of eyebright will prevent the infection from spreading and promote healing of watery eyes.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine notes that Euphrasia (eyebright) single-dose eye drops are effective for various conjunctival conditions (4).
- Simmer 1 teaspoon of eyebright herb in 1 cup of water for about 10 minutes. Allow it to cool, then strain the solution using a clean cheesecloth. Use the strained solution as an eyewash. Repeat a couple of times daily.
- Alternatively, you can use homeopathy euphrasia 10% eye drops. Put 1 drop in each eye a few times a day.
7. Rose Water
Rose water is a well-known home remedy for different types of eye issues.
It has powerful antiseptic properties, which can prevent and treat different types of eye infections that can lead to watery eyes.
A 2010 study published in Ophthalmology and Eye Diseases found that when rose water was used in eye drops, it helped treat conjunctivitis due to its antiseptic and analgesic properties (5).
- Put 2 drops of pure rose water directly in your eyes using a dropper. Do it twice a day.
- Alternatively, mix 3 or 4 drops of rose water in some distilled water. Use it to rinse your eyes a few times a day.
Chamomile has traditionally been used to tackle conjunctivitis and other eye infections that can cause epiphora (6).
The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of this herb may account for its beneficial effects. In fact, it inhibits the release of histamine, which helps prevent an allergic reaction that can lead to itchiness and infection in the eyes.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers to a cup of hot water. Steep it for 5 minutes, strain this solution and then use the cool solution as an eyewash 2 or 3 times a day
- Alternatively, put used chamomile tea bags in the refrigerator. Put the chilled tea bags over your closed eyelids for 10 minutes. Do this 3 or 4 times a day for fast recovery.
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help treat and prevent dry eyes, a common cause of watery eyes.
Dry eyes can be due to a lack of essential fatty acids in your diet, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Also, these fatty acids are an important component of fat molecules, which keep your eyes healthy.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology concludes that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive role for dry eye syndrome as well as in certain medical conditions, such as blepharitis and meibomian gland disease (7).
- To get omega-3 fatty acids, include fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring in your diet. Eat at least 2 portions of fish a week.
- You can get omega-3s from green leafy veggies, soy products, and nuts and seeds too.
- You can opt to take omega-3 supplements, after consulting your doctor.
10. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of best cures for pink eye, which is one of the main causes of epiphora. Its antimicrobial properties help fight bacterial infections, one of the key causes of pink eye.
- Add ¼ teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to ½ cup of boiled and cooled water.
- Dip a cotton ball in this solution and apply the solution to the infected eye. (Use 2 cotton balls if both eyes are infected.)
- Also, wipe the outer eye with the cotton ball.
- Do this every few hours for 2 to 3 days.
Note: The solution may sting a bit, but only temporarily.
- Don’t rub your eye if you think there is something inside your eye. Rubbing your eye when you have a particles stuck in it may damage your eye.
- Do not touch your eyes with dirty hands.
- Drink a glass of carrot juice daily to solve the issue of watery eyes.
- If you have dry eyes, eye drops or artificial tears may be beneficial in stopping watery eyes.
- Follow your eye doctor’s instructions for keeping your contact lenses clean.
- Do not sleep with your contact lenses in, unless your eye doctor says it is okay.
- Avoid wearing your contact lenses when swimming or showering.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when going out to keep foreign objects out of your eyes.
- Before putting on your sunglasses or specs, wipe off any dust that might have collected on them.
- Always use your own eye makeup and other eye products. Avoid sharing with others.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Grayson W. Armstrong, MD, MPH (Ophthalmologist)
Is warm compress more beneficial than cold compress during watery eyes?
Both warm compresses and cold compresses can be helpful for watery eyes, and it is worth trying both to see what works best for you. This is a low-risk way to take care of watery eyes, though it doesn’t work for everyone. Try either warm or cold compresses for a few days to see if it helps, and then switch to the other if there is no relief. If there is still tearing despite these compresses, you should see your eye doctor.
Can rhinitis cause watery eyes?
Rhinitis is inflammation and swelling in the mucosa of the nose, and this is often associated with tearing eyes. The underlying cause of the rhinitis, such as allergies or irritation, may be the cause of the tearing eyes as well.
Alternatively, rhinitis can sometimes physically block the tear ducts from draining as well as they should, which means that tears build up in the eyes and sometimes pour down the cheeks.
How to stop your eyes from watering due to allergies?
Watery eyes due to allergies can be very bothersome and are often accompanied by itching, redness, and irritation. Of course, avoiding allergens is most helpful, but this isn’t always possible. Antihistamine eye drops can be used to decrease allergic responses of the eyes and can help with tearing.
Depending on where you live, these may be available with or without a prescription from your eye doctor. Additionally, artificial tear drops can be useful in clearing away allergens from the eyes and reducing allergic symptoms. Oral antihistamines can also be useful in treating allergic eye symptoms like tearing.
Overall, it is important to see an eye doctor to ensure that watery eyes and itchiness are from allergies and not from an infection or some other cause.
What is the best way to clear a blocked tear duct?
Blocked tear ducts are a common cause of tearing in adults and children. There can be many causes of blocked tear ducts, but fortunately, this is often correctable with surgical treatment. In very young children, there are sometimes non-surgical alternatives, as it can be normal to be born with blocked tear ducts which improve with time and special care. An eye doctor should evaluate you or your child to decide which steps, including surgery, are necessary.
How can you stop your eyes from tearing up in the cold weather?
Cold weather commonly causes eyes to tear up. When the cold air hits the eyes, the body wants to protect the surface from the damaging cold wind and lubricate the surface of the eye. Tearing is beneficial and helps the eye stay moist and safe in cold environments.
To minimize tearing in cold weather, you can try wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses to block the wind, or you can apply artificial tears to lubricate the surface before you go out in the cold. Avoiding extended periods in cold weather is also an option, if at all possible.
Please provide some additional tips and suggestions on how to take care of watery eyes.
In general, I recommend starting with low-risk treatments and slowly adding therapies if the first does not help. For instance, warm or cold compresses on the eyes sometimes help patients, and this is a very low-risk treatment that is generally safe for the eyes. If this doesn’t work, you can use artificial tears in the eyes regularly to lubricate the eyes.
The next step for tearing that isn’t relieved by either warm/cold compresses, or artificial tears may be an eyelid scrub using a mild shampoo or soap that is safe for the eyes, antihistamine eye drops, or something else. Consider seeing an eye doctor if the tearing persists, as you may need to be prescribed medications or undergo surgery to treat the underlying cause.
About Dr. Grayson W. Armstrong, MD, MPH: Dr. Armstrong went to medical school at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, RI, USA. He is currently in his ophthalmology training at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, USA.
- Switch from Antibiotic Eye Drops to Instillation of Mother’s Milk Drops as a Treatment of Infant Epiphora | Journal of Tropical Pediatrics | Oxford Academic. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/tropej/article/53/1/68/1668314. Published December 06, 2006.
- Evaluation of preventive effects of colostrum against neonatal conjunctivitis: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Education and Health Promotion. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114003. Published 2014.
- Effect of an oil-in-water emulsion on the tear physiology of patients with mild to moderate dry eye. Cornea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17251808. Published February 2007.
- Article TitleProspective Cohort Trial of Euphrasia Single-Dose Eye Drops in Conjunctivitis. A Definition for Wildness | Ecopsychology. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2000.6.499.
- Anti-inflammatory and Antihistaminic Study of an Unani Eye Drop Formulation. Ophthalmology and Eye Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661513. Published 2010.
- Chamomile. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chamomile.
- A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome. International Journal of Ophthalmology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874521. Published 2013.