By Chioma Umeha
Tears are essential to the performance and health of the eyes. They keep the surface of the eye moist, help with distribution of nutrients and protective cells, and wash away particles and foreign objects. Watery eyes however, send a different message, especially when accompanied by itching, redness, discharge or puffiness around the eyelids. These signs may indicate an allergic reaction, but they could also be caused by clogged tear ducts, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid follicles), airborne irritants like chemicals, cigarette smoke, smog – even aging. Watery, itchy eyes may result in temporary blurriness, but seldom are they a medical emergency or threat to your eyesight. A health professional is usually needed only if the tearing is prolonged and bothersome.
Here are four of the most common conditions that may cause watery eyes, according to John Hopkin Health Alerts:
• Allergic conjunctivitis: For millions of Americans, leaky eyes are a sign of the allergy season, which can extend from early spring to late fall. Seasonal allergies, commonly known as hay fever are touched off by the body’s reaction to allergens in the air, mostly pollens from grasses, trees and ragweed.
• Dry eye: Ironically, another cause of watery eyes can be dryness. Dry eye produces an itchy, gritty feeling in your eye, which in turn stimulates the tear glands to overproduce as a protective response. Dry eye is particularly common among people as they age because the tear glands tend to shrink.
• Blepharitis: Blepharitis, marked by swelling along the edges of the eyelids, may result in itchy, watery eyes. Caused by recurring or chronic inflammation, blepharitis also results in thickening and scales along the lid margins, crusting, redness and shallow lid ulcers. The inflammation is caused by infection, an allergic reaction or a skin condition. Blepharitis usually does not damage the cornea or result in loss of vision.
• Blocked tear duct: Aging may cause narrowing or obstruction of the nasolacrimal ducts (tear ducts), which help drain tears away from the face. When these ducts become constricted as a result of infection, inflammatory disorders, trauma to the eye or face, surgery or changes to hormone levels, they can cause tears to detour to the face instead of following the normal nasolacrimal route. Symptoms of a blocked tear duct may get worse after a cold or sinus infection. Also, symptoms may be more noticeable after exposure to cold, wind or sunlight.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 8, 2013.