Why Do My Eyes Water?

by Jun 24, 2020

Watery or runny eyes can be caused by several conditions, such as allergies, inflammation, or injuries.  But the most common cause of watery eyes is surprising – dry eye disease.  Meibomian gland dysfunction can lead to dry eyes and common symptoms like burning or irritation, but it can also lead to symptoms like watery or runny eyes.  To understand how this symptom can actually be associated with dry eyes, continue reading.  


How Do Our Normal Tears Work?

Dry eye disease arises when our natural tear film is not effective enough in nourishing and lubricating the front surface of the eye, though this can happen for different reasons.  The natural tear film is made up of three layers.  The inner layer, which rests directly on the front of the eye, is called the mucin layer.  The mucin layer helps hold the tears to the cornea.  The largest middle layer is called the aqueous layer.  This layer is what helps provide oxygen and nourishments to the front of the eye.  The outermost layer is called the lipid layer.  The lipid layer is released by the millions of Meibomian glands that line our eyelids.  This thick, oily layer helps stabilize the tear film and prevents it from easily evaporating when it is exposed to air.  Cases of dry eye disease have two main causes: aqueous deficiency, in which there is an inadequate amount of the watery aqueous layer, or evaporative dry eye, in which the Meibomian glands are not producing enough of the lipid layer.   


Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Watery Eyes

As we know, Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common condition that can cause or worsen symptoms of dry eye disease.  In Meibomian gland dysfunction, also called MGD, the amount of lipids released into the tear film are severely reduced.  When they are missing the vital lipid layer that is normally produced by the Meibomian glands, tears are much more likely to evaporate quickly.  This leaves the front surface of the eye exposed and vulnerable.  As a response to this, the eye will begin to make reflex tears to protect the eye.  However, these reflex tears are too watery and do not contain any important lipids, so they either immediately evaporate or end up running off the eye and onto the cheeks.  Reflex tears are commonly what people are noticing when they complain of watery or runny eyes, and they are usually the result of underlying MGD. 

Treating MGD and Watery Eyes 

To prevent watery eyes, we have to address the underlying Meibomian gland dysfunction and restore the vital lipid layer into the tears.  This requires diligent eyelid hygiene.  Warm compresses, which include gently applying heat to the eyelids several times throughout the day, helps unblock Meibomian glands and promotes the release of oils back into the tear film.  Gentle lid scrubs can also unblock the glands and keep them healthy.  Certain lipid-based artificial tears will stabilize the tear film and help reduce symptoms of evaporative dry eye.  Treating Meibomian gland dysfunction can be a long-term process, but is necessary for healthy eyes.  

Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to be evaluated for dry eyes, meibomian gland dysfunction or watery eyes. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.

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