Watery eyes (epiphora)

Overview  |  Urgent care  |  Symptoms  |  Diagnosis  |  Treatment  |  At-home management  |  FAQs


What are watery eyes?

The term watery eyes, known medically as epiphora, refers to when the eyes make too many tears. You may experience this many times throughout your life — due to cold winds, a smoky environment, or even hay fever — but some eye conditions can cause this problem.

Eye problems that can cause this include:

  • Keratitis 
  • Blepharitis
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • A scratched cornea
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Clogged meibomian glands
  • Trichiasis (an ingrown eyelash) 
  • Chalazion, also known as a stye
  • Eyelid abnormalities, such as ectropion or entropion

If you’ve recently had surgery on your eyes, such as cataract surgery, they may also water as they heal.

When to seek urgent care

There are situations when watery eyes may signal a more serious issue that requires urgent treatment. If you experience severe pain in your eyes, sudden changes in vision, such as blurred vision or vision loss, or if the excessive tearing results from an injury to the eye, you must seek immediate medical attention.

These symptoms could indicate a more significant underlying problem, such as a corneal injury, infection, or a foreign object in the eye, which you should address promptly to prevent potential complications.



You may experience watering in one eye or both. Your eyes may water constantly or intermittently, or you might experience watery eyes in the morning only, which a bright light could cause, after having your eyes closed for hours.

Many people with watery eyes will experience other symptoms, depending on the cause. Your eyes may look red or feel itchy, sore, or painful. You might have a stinging or burning sensation, or a dull ache around your eyes with a headache. Some people also experience photophobia (light sensitivity), blurred vision, or feel like they have something in their eye.


A pharmacist can offer some advice for temporary watering, such as teaching you how to clean your eyes. However, if over-the-counter measures don’t help, you should consider booking an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye specialist).  

One of our expert ophthalmologists will assess your eyes and recommend any appropriate tests. We will perform a physical exam of your eyes and may use a special dye to check how well your tears drain. You may have a blocked tear duct if the colour doesn’t disappear within a few minutes. We might also suggest imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an X-ray. 

Additional tests we may perform include a slit lamp examination, visual acuity test (eye chart test), or tissue sample. Read our blog to learn more about diagnostic tests available at Oculase: Common eye tests.



You may be able to manage watery eyes at home, but you should seek professional treatment if it persists, as there may be an underlying cause. We may recommend eye drops to lubricate your eyes or prevent an infection.

If eye drops do not help, we may advise watery eyes surgery to address a problem with your eye, such as a punctoplasty or a dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR). Additional surgical procedures can include a ptosis surgery, lid laxity surgery, or blepharoplasty.

How to stop watery eyes at home

If your eyes are watering, take a break from watching TV, scrolling on your phone, or reading. These activities can dry the eyes out as you may blink less often.

If you might have something in your eye, try filling a clean cup with lukewarm water and blinking in the water to wash the eye out. You can also try this with eye drops.

If you have a blocked tear duct, you may be able to resolve it at home by pressing a warm compress on your eyes a few times daily.


Book an appointment

Persistent watery eyes can be more than just a nuisance; they may indicate an underlying issue that needs attention. Our dedicated team is here to assess your condition, provide a thorough examination, and create a personalised treatment plan that suits your needs.

Schedule a consultation today to identify the cause of your symptoms and prioritise your eye health.

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Frequently asked questions

    Epiphora refers to excess watering or tears, whereas lacrimation is automatic and healthy tear production.

    An allergic reaction from hay fever can cause watery eyes, which you can prevent by taking an antihistamine each morning. If it is cold, windy, or sunny outside, you should wear something to protect your eyes and prevent them from drying out.

    It’s unlikely that you would need to take some time off work unless you need surgery. If you work with computers, you should take short breaks to rest your eyes. Remember the 20:20:20 rule: look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds.

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