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Watering eyes

Watering eyes are common and often get better on their own.

You may need treatment if it affects your daily activities.

Causes of watering eyes

It's normal for your eyes to water in smoky environments or if you're outside in the cold or wind.

Your eyes can also water because of an eye injury or something in your eye, such as an eyelash or a piece of grit.

Sometimes the cause of watering eyes can be a condition such as:

  • an allergy
  • an infection, such as conjunctivitis
  • blocked tear ducts (small tubes that tears drain into)
  • ectropion - your eyelid drooping away from the eye
  • entropion - your eyelid turning inwards
  • dry eye syndrome – this can cause your eyes to produce too many tears

Babies often have watering eyes because their tear ducts are small. It usually gets better by the time they're 1 year old.

When to see a pharmacist

You can ask a pharmacist:

  • what you can do to treat it yourself – such as cleaning and protecting your eyes
  • for advice on eye cleaning solutions, eyedrops or allergy medicines
  • if you need to see an optician or GP

When to contact your GP

Talk to your GP if:

  • your eyes keep watering and it's stopping you from doing everyday activities
  • you have any changes to your vision, such as loss of vision
  • your eyelid is turning inwards or drooping away from your eye
  • you have any lumps or swellings around your eyes
  • your eyes are very sore or painful
  • your baby's eyes are sore, red or very watery

If your GP cannot find the cause of your watering eyes, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for tests.

Treating watering eyes

You may not need treatment if the watering is not causing problems.

If you need treatment, it will depend on the cause of your watering eyes.

For example:

  • eyedrops can help if your eyes are dry or infected
  • medicines can help if you have an allergy
  • anything in your eye, like a piece of grit, can be removed
  • a small operation may be needed if you have a problem with your eyelids or you have blocked tear ducts

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024