Why do my eyes tear?

by Dr. Robert Benza, MD 28. September 2013 16:30

Why do my eyes tear?  This is a question we hear frequently from our patients. Interestingly, there are a variety of causes of tearing, also known as epiphora. The eyes constantly produce tears to keep the cornea and external tissues moist. There is also a portion of the gland which has a reflex center which produces excessive or reflex tearing when we have an irritation in the eye.

Dry eye or an irritated eye might be the most common cause of tearing. Patients look confused when you tell them dryness is the cause of their tearing. Dry eyes cause irritation which stimulates reflex tearing to create a great amount of tears all at once. This would be no different then if a bug flew in the eye causing an irritation resulting in tearing. Some patients might have an eyelash or a foreign body in the eye resulting in tearing associated with an irritation. This can be removed easily in the office.  
The tear duct system drains through a duct system which ultimately ends up in the back of the nose and throat. This is why we sniff with our nose after we cry.  Ironically,  any blockage in this system can block the flow of tears outward resulting in a backflow causing tearing. These patients could have tearing on one or both sides of their eyes and face.  Some of these patients may require surgery if the blockage is significant and can't be remedied with more conservative treatment.
Treatments will vary greatly depending on the cause. Many of the dry eye patients are often started on lubricating drops to decrease the irritation which is the source of the reflex tearing. As mentioned earlier,  foreign objects are typically removed easily in the office. If someone has only a partial blockage, anti-inflammatory or steroid drops can be utilized to further open the system and therefore decrease the tearing. If tearing is a issue,  have your eye care professional evaluate the situation to determine the cause which will go a long way towards fixing the problem. Remember, protect those eyes!!!

For more information on tearing eyes, Click Here.

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