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Tricks for treating watery eyes

In partnership with Dr Joe Paul

Common causes, tips and tricks to combat watery eyes

A young man with dreadlocks rubbing his watery eyes while wearing a pink shirt
A young man with dreadlocks rubbing his watery eyes while wearing a pink shirt

It’s easy to mistake them for the beginning of a cold or a bout of hay fever, but there are several other reasons you might experience watery eyes more often than usual.

To bust the myths around watery eyes, we asked optometrist and Head of Professional Services at Specsavers, Dr Joe Paul, to explain the most common causes, and share tips and tricks to combat them. 

What causes watery eyes?

Watery eyes are essentially a temporary build-up of excess moisture that can feel like you’re producing tears excessively. Although they’re generally temporary and treated easily, constant watering could be a sign of an underlying condition.

Ironically, they’re often a direct result of dry eye syndrome – watering so much because they’re actually dry and need moisture.

“When your tear glands don’t function properly, your tear film can be insufficient or can evaporate too quickly and you may get dry patches on your eyes,” explains Joe. “When this happens, extra tears are produced as a reflex to try to protect your eyes.” 

Other common causes of watery eyes include: 

  • Allergies, hay fever and colds

  • Blocked tear ducts

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Ageing (the eyelid skin sags away from the eyelid in our senior years)

  • Digital eye strain

  • Getting something in your eye (e.g. a stray eyelash or dust)

  • Eye infections

  • Contact lenses that are old or torn

  • Styes (red, painful lumps on your eyelid)

How common are watery eyes?

According to research, 50% of people who routinely use computers and digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain – one of the major triggers of watery eyes.

And then there are the 3.1 million Australians who suffer from hay fever-related symptoms too – another major cause.

Yet, even though the condition is common, Joe stresses that it’s not something you should have to live with. 

“If you’re concerned about watery eyes, you should book in and see your optometrist, because there can be several possible causes,” he says.

Young woman with a nose piercing and wearing a denim jacket rubbing her watery eyes

How do I treat watery eyes? 

If you think your eyes are watering due to allergies, eye strain or fatigue, applying a cold spoon to your closed eyelids can be an effective at-home treatment. And if a stye is your issue, a warm compress can help.

Steering clear of any known allergy triggers, taking a nap, meditating with your eyes closed and limiting screen time are also recommended. Other suggestions are swapping your contacts for glasses, wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from allergens and thoroughly removing any eye-make-up before bed. 

If you suspect conjunctivitis is to blame, or you have an underlying eye condition, see a doctor or optometrist, who will prescribe a treatment such as medicated eye drops.

“If you have any blurred vision, soreness, irritation or lumps or swelling around your eyes, you should have your eyes checked by an optometrist,” says Joe. 

Ready to book an appointment? Check out the nib First Choice Optical network to search for local optometrists. First Choice is our community of specially selected health providers who are committed to delivering quality care and value for money.

The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

Dr Joe Paul, an optometrist wearing a collared shirt and looking at the camera

In partnership with

Dr Joe Paul

Dr Joe Paul is the Head of Professional Services at Specsavers, providing clinical and professional support to Specsavers optometrists across Australia and New Zealand. Joe has a PhD in glaucoma research and has previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, and as an optometrist at Specsavers and private practice over the last decade.