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No need to cry about watering eyes


November 2011 

Watering eyesMoisture is essential to keep our eyes working properly, but sometimes, and especially for people over the age of 60, this can become excessive. Just one eye or both start watering far more than usual, often to the extent that tears are formed and roll down your cheeks. This can be embarrassing of course, but it can also be very annoying, time consuming as you constantly grope for hankies and tissues, and worst of all, it can actually affect your vision.

Tears are formed from a small gland called the lacrimal gland positioned on the outer side of each eye. These glands continually make a very small amount of tears which are spread over the eye when you blink to keep the surface moist. The tears then drain away down small channels called canaliculi on the inner corner of each eye into tear ducts and then into the nose.

There are a number of conditions that can cause this “over watering” of the eye. Some, like irritants on the eye such as onions, infections such as conjunctivitis, a foreign body in the eye or an allergy can all cause an excess of water and can be dealt with in fairly obvious ways.

Sometimes eyelashes can grow inwards and irritate the front of the eye. This isn’t always readily apparent until you examine the lashes. There is a proper word for this – entropion – and again it is fairly straightforward to treat.

Over watery eyes can also be caused by a blockage in the eye drainage channels – a common problem is a blockage in the tear duct just below the tear sac. This can lead to increased problems as the stagnant water remaining within the blocked tear duct can become infected.

Another problem is ectropion. This is when the lower eyelid begins to turn outward from the eye and this causes tears to roll out from the eye down to your cheeks rather than drain normally down the canaliculi to the tear sac.

Then there can be abnormalities within the moisture itself. Tears are made up not just with water but contain proteins and lipids (fat). This is a sensitive balance and if there is not enough fat content within the moisture, the tear film doesn’t spread easily across the eye and it can also cause the liquid to roll easily down the cheek instead of staying within the eye to flow out through the tear duct.

Treatment for watery eyes varies of course depending on the cause, and the important thing first is to ensure the cause has been properly identified. A doctor is the first port of call but it is likely they will refer you to an ophthalmologist or eye specialist at your local opticians. Treatments can be very simple from eye drops to holding a warm flannel over your eyelids to help increase fat production in the tears; but in other cases more specialist treatments may be necessary.

The key thing is that watery eyes are usually caused by a specific problem that can be identified and often successfully treated. It is not just a normal part of growing old, so if you suffer from this problem seek medical advice.


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