Tearing Up!

Q. I am 52 years old and recently my left eye will occasionally tear up. What causes this and is it something I need to be concerned about?

A. There can be a number of reasons why an eye tears up occasionally. The most common reason is dry eyes, known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It may sound odd that eyes can tear up with dryness; however, it is the body’s response to the dryness that causes the excessive tearing. If you are unable to produce enough tears, the lacrimal gland of the eye goes into a second mode of tearing called reflex tears. This is because the corneas need to stay moist to survive and see well. This reflex tearing is not modulated well, so the patient perceives it as intermittent excess tears. Other causes of tearing include an occluded drainage system, allergies, corneal irritation, and infections. It is generally not sight-threatening. However, since infections and chronic dry eyes can lead to a loss of vision, it is important to see your doctor for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Deborah DiStefano, M.D.

DiStefano Regional Eye Center

1801 Gunbarrel Rd.

Chattanooga, TN 37421