Tearing in Adults

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What Is It?

Small glands, located in the surface tissue on the white of the eye and lining the eyelids, constantly produce small quantities of tears to keep the eye healthy and lubricated. The lacrimal gland, a larger gland locatedin the upper eyelid, responds to emotion or eye irritation by producing larger quantities of tears.

In some people, tears well up in the eye because too many tears are produced or, because the tears are not draining properly. Excess tears give the eye a moist appearance, and can collect alon the border of the lower lid and overflow onto the cheek.


How Do Tears Drain?

After bathing the eye’s surface, tears enter a small opening in each lid (the punctum), and drain through a small canal (canaliculus) into the lacrinal sac and down the naso lacrimal duct into the nose. This explains why we have a runny nose when we cry, since excess tears reach the nose through the normal tear drainage system.


What Causes Excess Tearing?

Injury, birth defects and infections, especially of the lacrimal sac, can block tear drainage at the punctum, canaliculus, lacrimal sac or naso lacrimal duct and cause overflow tearing.

Eye infections, lid problems, an inturned eyelash, wind exposure, yawning, glaucoma, cerain drugs, eyestrain or eve dry eye can also cause excessive tearing.

But excessive tearing does not always mean an excess of tears or blockage of the drainage system. Patients with a dry eye often complain of tearing. When the amount of lubricating tears secreted is too low to maintain necessary moisture for the eye, the large lacrimal gland often reacts by producing additional tears which cause episodes of overflow tearing, even though the underlying problem is too few lubricating tears or dry eyes.


Improper Tear Drainage

  • malpositioned eyelid or punctum
  • faulty blinking