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Do you get watery eyes with dry eye?

Person with watery eyes

Excessively watery eyes can be more than just embarrassing, they could be a warning sign of a chronic progressive eye condition

Many people are surprised to be told by their eye care professional that their watery, teary eyes are a frequent symptom of dry eye disease, an eye condition which if left unmanaged can lead to permanent damage to the surface of the eye and loss of visual quality.

Dry eye is caused by a reduction in the quality and/or quantity of your natural tear production, so it is rather counterintuitive to be wiping away tears from your face only to be told you have dry eye! If this sounds like you then read on to find out more from the experts at Dry Eye Zone, about what is happening and what can you do to stop it.

The problem with watery eyes

Having to put up with watery eyes can really affect your self-confidence. A dry eye sufferer told Dry Eye Zone ‘it’s embarrassing to look someone in the eye knowing that to them it looks like you are crying. I also found that all that salty moisture and wiping made the skin round my eyes red and scaley, all in all it was hard to feel my best’

A watery eye can present with practical problems too such as reading and driving. It may also cause chronic irritation of the periocular skin due to repeated wiping away of the tears and the interaction of the salty tears on the skin. Most patients may improve their symptoms after the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

But do not delay, winter weather is on its way and cold windy conditions will make things a whole lot worse.

What exactly is happening?

One of the challenges when diagnosing dry eye is that it comes and goes, making it easy to forget about when there are so many other things to think about in your busy life. Be aware, however, that dry eye does not go away, and if not addressed it will continue to progress becoming more frequent and more severe.

The reduction in production of well-balanced tears can have many underlying causes, but when your eyes are watering it could indicate a loss of the oily top layer of your tears which helps ‘hold’ the moisture in your eyes for longer. This can be caused by poor functioning, or a blockage, of the meibomian glands. Look closely and you can see these gland openings along the eyelid margin, just behind the root of the eyelashes. These tiny glands produce a special oil called meibum. Without this oil the tears spill out stimulating further tear production which results in more tearing!

What can you do about it?

The great news is that there are plenty of things that can be done to relieve symptoms and help to stop any progression, and the sooner you start the better. However, there are different types of dry eye so Dry Eye Zone would always recommend a visit to see your eye care professional first. Here are some good general tips:

1. Maintain a high level of eye lid hygiene using a specialist cleaner to make sure those special glands stay unblocked and any dirt and debris is removed

2. Gently massage your eye lids to promote the flow of your natural tears

3. Treat your eyes to a hot compress to get the oils flowing

4. Always thoroughly remove make-up at night using a dry eye friendly cleanser

5. And even with watery eyes dry eye drops can help as they will assist in rebalancing your natural tear-film

You are not alone

Around one in three of the UK adult population has dry eye disease according to a recent study published from the University of Aston. That is around 17 million people, more people than who report having asthma, diabetes, back pain or even high blood pressure. The problem is now so big it is on the radar of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who have called for dry eye not to be overlooked when considering eye disease.

Other symptoms may be experienced

When your tears are not being produced as they should you can experience a wide range of ocular sensations – not just watery eyes. The list of symptoms can be varied (dry, tired, sore, gritty, red, burning, stinging and heavy feeling eyes) are all reported by sufferers. This is one of the reasons that it is not always diagnosed straight away. In fact another contributory factor to watery eyes is that the irritation to the surface of the eye triggers the sort of reflex tearing associated with crying, in an attempt to relieve the irritation.

Make that appointment and take control

There are other eye conditions which could be the cause of your watery eyes such as allergies or infections, but if the excessive tear production comes and goes then this would suggest it might be a symptom of dry eye. Talk to an independent optician today confirm the cause and receive expert advice so this condition is not allowed to progress.

If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms then you should ask the advice of your eye care professional. Do not leave things untreated as symptoms may progress. Why not book your next eye examination with an independent practice specialising in Dry Eye today.


Lopez Montes T, Stokkermans TJ. Assessment of the Watery Eye. [Updated 2023 Mar 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

Arbabi EM, Arshad FA, Holden K, Carrim ZI. The watery eye. BMJ. 2011 Jul 19;343:d4029. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4029. PMID: 21771824.

Mark I. Golden; Jay J. Meyer; Bhupendra C. Patel. Dry Eye Syndrome. National Library of Medicine. April 3.

Vidal-Rohr M, Craig JP, Davies LN, Wolffsohn JS. The epidemiology of dry eye disease in the UK: The Aston dry eye study. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2023 Jun;46(3):101837. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2023.101837. Epub 2023 Mar 30. PMID: 37003925.,are%20positive%20predictors%20of%20DED.

Office of National Statistics. Dataset: UK health indicators. Contact: Geeta Kerai, Ireoluwaposi Onadeko, Emma Bannister and Tim Vizard. Release date: 29 March 2022

The World Health Organisation (WHO) World Report on Vision 2019. Executive Summary. Page 4.


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