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Tearing in Adults

The lacrimal gland and other small glands located inside the eyelid and on the white part of the eye constantly produce tears to keep the eye moist, lubricated and healthy.


How do tears drain from the eye?

As new tears are produced, old tears drain from the eye through two small openings called the upper and lower puncta, which are located at the corner of your upper and lower eyelids near the nose.  The tears then move through a passage called the canaliculus and into the lacrimal sac.  From the sac, the tears drop down the duct, called the nasolacrimal duct, and drain into the back of the nose and throat.  That is why your nose runs when you cry.

Excessive tearing may occur from the following:

  • Injury, birth defects, infection or other blockage of the lacrimal (tear) drainage system;
  • Eyelid or eyelash disorder;
  • Infection in the eyes;
  • Wind, smoke, fumes, or other environmental irritants;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Certain medications;
  • Allergic reaction;
  • Eyestrain;
  • Dry eyes;
  • Foreign material in the eye;
  • Scratch on the eye;

How is the cause of excessive tearing determined?

An eye examination is necessary to determine the cause of excessive tearing.  He or she may also:

  • Irrigate your tear drainage system with fluid to make sure the pathway is open;
  • Measure tear production;
  • Illuminate the tear drain with fluorescent dye test;

How is excessive tearing treated?

Once your ophthalmologist determines the cause, treatment may include one or more of the following:

  • Surgical opening of the blocked drainage system;
  • Surgery to repair an injured drainage system;
  • Removed of an eyelash or foreign body in the eye;
  • Use of lubricating eye drops or ointment;
  • Adding a new opening from the lacrimal sac into the nose, a surgery known as dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR);
  • Insertion of an artificial tear duct implant.

Your doctor will discuss the most appropriate form of treatment with you.

Courtesy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  Reprinted with permission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  Copyright protected.  All rights reserved.  Users of this website may reproduce one (1) copy of this for their own personal, noncommercial use.  All Internet, web or electronic posting or transmission is not permitted.