New Telegraph

Unabating teary, runny eyes

The Scene

He is well known in the community as ‘’baba oloju digi’’ (the man with the glassy eyes). He carries his handkerchief with him everywhere he goes; church, farm, meetings… they are virtually inseparable for it’s by its grace that he’s been saved from embarrassment on countless number of occasions. People have told him ‘’take heart’’ several times because he’s been mistaken to be crying. The tears gush out the more when irritated by dust, smoke etc. It is my pleasure to introduce the man with the glassy eyes- Baba JJ.

What it is

Tears are very important to the health of our eyes. However, too many tears, or watery eyes, is not just frustrating and perhaps embarrassing – they may also cause vision problems. Watery eyes are commonly caused by the eye producing too many tears and/or poor drainage of the tears from the eye.

• Producing too many tears may be a response to eyelid inflammation, allergy or irritation.

• A range of treatments are available depending on the cause.

• Poor tear drainage can be due to a physical problem with the eye’s tear ducts and may require surgery.


The main reasons for watery eye problems are:

• overproduction of tears

• poor drainage of tears

• a combination of the above.

The natural process

The eye’s tears are composed of three layers: oil, water and mucous. Mucous to coat and bind to the surface of the eye, water to act as a saline solution containing various vitamins and minerals, and oil to prevent evaporation of the tears. The oily layer is produced by the glands which line the edge of the eyelids. The tear gland, which lies just below the eyebrow produces the watery layer The third layer, comes from cells in the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the

inside of the eyelids).

To keep your eyes comfortable, a small volume of tears is continually produced. When the eyes are irritated or when one cries, a greater volume of tears are produced from larger glands near the outer corner of the eye.

Some of the tear fluid evaporates from the surface of the eye. The rest drain via small canals from the upper and lower eyelids near the nose to a bony canal (the nasolacrimal duct) and on to the nose. This is the reason you need to blow your nose when you cry!

Overproduction of tears

Overproduction of tears is usually due to irritation of the surface of the eye. There are many potential causes but the commonest include: • eyelid inflammation • cold, windy weather • allergy

• light sensitivity and glare problems Rarer causes include:

• infection

• floppy eyelids

• ‘crocodile tear syndrome’ (which can occur after a person has had Bell’s palsy, a type of facial paralysis).

The term “crocodile tears” is derived from the ancient belief that crocodiles weep after killing their victims.“Crocodile tears syndrome,” also known as Bogorad syndrome, is the shedding of tears while eating or drinking in patients recovering from Bell’s Palsy.

Impaired tear drainage

Again, there are many potential causes for impaired tear drainage.

They include:

• Looseness of the lower eyelids with misplaced tear drainage openings (puncta) or poor tear pump function.

• Narrow tear drainage openings.

• Partial or complete blockage of the nasolacrimal duct (the bony canal that drains tears from the eyes).


Occasionally, babies have a watery eye and this is usually due to a blocked nasolacrimal duct. In most cases, this comes right on it’s own by 12 months of age.

Other causes

  1. Bell’s palsy

  2. Blow to the eye or other eye injury

  3. Burns

  4. Chemical splash in the eye

  5. Chronic sinusitis

  6. Facial nerve palsy

  7. Inflammatory diseases

  8. Radiation therapy

  9. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)

  10. Sarcoidosis (collections of inflammatory cells in the body)

  11. Sjogren’s syndrome (Clinically the hallmark symptoms are dry mouth (xerostomia) and dry eyes (xerophthalmia).

  12. Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a rare, serious disorder of your skin and mucous membranes. It’s usually a reaction to a medication or an infection)

  13. Surgery of the eye or nose

  14. Thyroid disorders

  15. Tumors affecting the tear drainage system

  16. Dry eyes (decreased production of tears

  17. Outwardly turned eyelid (ectropion)

  18. Inwardly turned eyelid (entropion)

  19. Foreign object in the eye

  20. Ingrown eyelash (trichiasis)

  21. Inflammation of the cornea

  22. Sty (a red painful lump near the edge of the eyelid)

  23. Cluster headaches

  24. Dry-eye syndrome; It may not make sense, but dry-eye syndrome often leads to watery eyes. When eyes dry out, they become irritated and uncomfortable.

That prompts the tear glands to produce so many tears that they overwhelm the eye’s natural drainage system…and the vicious cycle goes on and on. Tear production tends to lessen with age, so dry eyes are more common in older adults.


Most of the time, watery eyes resolve without treatment, but the condition can sometimes become a long standing problem. Medications and Surgical options are also available.

Golden rules

See a doctor as soon as possible if;

• your eyes keep watering and it’s stopping you doing everyday activities

• you experience any changes to your vision, such as loss of vision

• your eyelid is turning inwards or drooping away from your eye

• you have any lumps or swellings around your eyes

• your eyes are very sore or painful

• your baby’s eyes are sore, red or very watery

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