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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Blocked tear ducts

Babies are sometimes born with tear ducts that have not fully developed. This can cause their eyes to water. As their tear ducts finish developing (usually within a few weeks of birth), the problem disappears.

In adults, a blocked or narrowed tear duct is the most common cause of a watering eye. Over time, the tear ducts can become narrowed, often because of inflammation (swelling).

If your tear ducts are blocked or narrowed, your tears will be unable to drain away and will remain in the tear sac. The tear sac may become infected and your eye will produce a sticky liquid. You may also have a swelling on the side of your nose, next to your eye.

Occasionally, the canaliculi (narrow drainage channels on the inside of your eyes) may become blocked. This can be due to inflammation or scarring.

Excess tears

If your eyes become irritated, they will automatically produce extra tears to wash away the irritant. Irritants that can cause extra tears to be produced include:

  • chemical irritants, such as onions or fumes,
  • an eye infection, such as infective conjunctivitis,
  • inflammation caused by an allergy, as in allergic conjunctivitis,
  • an eye injury, such as a scratch or a piece of grit that becomes lodged in the eye, or
  • an inward-growing eyelash (entropion).

A watering eye can also be caused when the lower eyelid turns outwards away from the eye. This is known as ectropion. If this happens, your tears may not drain away properly.

See Useful links for more information about ectropion.

If your tears have an abnormal lipid (fat) content, they may not be able to spread evenly across your eye. This can lead to dry patches developing on your eyes, which become sore and cause extra tears to be produced.

view information about Watering Eye on www.nhs.co.uk »

Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.


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