Watery eyes: causes, symptoms and treatment

Aug 22, 2018 in Eye Care

Woman rubbing eyes with fingers

You know the drill, you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen but mid-way through chopping the onions your eyes start to stream. It’s the result of irritants stimulating the eye to produce tears, to wash those irritants away. It’s this type of aggravation that causes your eyes to well up on a brisk winter walk or when a stray eyelash gets in your eye.

When our eyes become irritated and watery, it can cause all kinds of difficulties: wearing contact lenses can become almost impossible and driving for long journeys can be a real challenge.

But watery eyes can also be caused by medical conditions.

What causes watery eyes?

Watery eyes can also be caused by:

  • Allergies – we’ll cover this in more detail in the section below
  • Infections (conjunctivitis)
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Drooping lower eyelids (ectropion) or eyelids turning in (entropion)
  • Dry eye syndrome

When your eyes are sore, it’s almost impossible to stop rubbing them. It’s like trying not to lick your lips when you’ve devoured a sugary doughnut. But it’s important that you try to avoid aggravating your eyes by rubbing them. So if you have sore or runny eyes, it’s important to get your eyes checked by a professional. There could be something in your eye, or a scratch, that could be the cause of your watery eyes.

It’s also a chance for your eyes to be assessed for conditions such as blocked tear ducts, or infections including conjunctivitis, and the ironically named dry eye syndrome (which causes the eye to over-compensate, producing excess tears) - in both cases, eyedrops can be beneficial.

As conjunctivitis is a common issue, we’ve listed the symptoms to look out for below:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Burning in the eyes
  • Sticky eyelashes
  • Itchy, watery eyes


Eye drops for watery eyes can soothe the condition, but we recommend checking with your Leightons optician or pharmacist before use. If the irritation in your eyes persists it’d be a good idea to visit your GP, or see one of our eye specialists here at Leightons.

Book an eye test now

Our trained and professional optometrists will be able to help with any concerns you may have about the health of your eyes. Pop in to see our friendly team at your nearest Leightons branch, or call us on 0800 40 20 20 to book an appointment. Alternatively, you can book your eye test online.