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Abnormal Tearing

What Is Abnormal Tearing?

Tears keep the eyes moist and healthy and are made in glands under the outer upper eyelid. They normally drain through tear ducts in the eyelids, nose and inside corners of the eyes. When a tear duct is blocked, the tears can’t drain and the eyes water and overflow. Chronic, abnormal tearing can progress to swollen, inflamed or infected eyes.

Among the many causes of abnormal tearing are:

  • Dry Eyes – It sounds odd that dryness can lead to tearing but when the eyes are trying to make tears to wet the eye, it can cause tearing.
  • Aging – The tear ducts on the inside corners of the eyes can narrow and become blocked over time.
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Conjunctivitis – This occurs when the thin, clear tissue on the eyeball and inner eyelid becomes inflamed.
  • Longtime use of eye drops, particularly glaucoma medications
  • Nasal or sinus conditions, such as sinusitis or nasal blockages
  • Structural blockage – Sometimes blockages are present at birth – if so, this issue usually resolves itself within a year but may require surgical treatment.
  • Facial injury
  • Tumor in the nose or tear drainage system
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment


Depending on the severity of the abnormal tearing, symptoms can include:

  • Watery eye(s) – The eyes overproduce tears.
  • Blurred vision – Objects near and far may appear fuzzy or poorly defined.
  • Eye discharge – Mucus may develop in the corners of the eyes. Eye drainage can collect and dry on the eyelids and lashes, causing the lids and lashes to stick together and the eye to develop a “crusty” appearance.
  • Inflammation – The whites of the eyes may become red and painful swelling may develop on the inside corner of the eye.

Treatment Options

Abnormal tearing that lasts longer than several days needs a medical evaluation and possible treatment, which might include:

  • Eye drops – Artificial tears can help dry eyes feel more comfortable.
  • Medications – Antibiotic drops or pills are often prescribed to treat the underlying condition.
  • Flushing the tear duct – This procedure provides temporary relief for adults with a narrowed tear duct or structural treatment for infants with a blocked tear duct.
  • Balloon catheter dilation – Suitable for both adults and children, this procedure opens the tear duct.
  • Stenting — One or more thin, flexible tubes are threaded through the tear ducts and left for about three months.
  • Dacryocystorhinostomy – This surgery opens the tear duct in the nose through a small incision or nasal opening.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of abnormal tearing, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat abnormal tearing.