20 Reasons for One Watery Eye

Have you ever asked yourself “Why do I have just one watery eye?” Sometimes it’s the left eye, and other times it’s the right eye-watering. This can be frustrating, annoying, or maybe worrisome to you.  I too have experienced this, which has led me to research and find some answers. The challenge with having one eye that won’t stop watering is narrowing down the causes, so you can fix it. That is where I come in, let’s go over the possible reasons that your one eye won’t stop watering, and home remedy options. 

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1. Irritation to the eye 

Broadly speaking, anything and everything that irritates your eye, will make your eyes water. Our eyes tear to protect and lubricate the eye. If there is something making your eye mad (makeup, pollen, etc.), your body is going to attempt and flush the eye with tears. Here are more specific reasons besides general irritation.

2. Use of Chemicals and aerosols 

Using chemicals, especially in confined spaces can affect your lungs, eyes, nose, and mouth. Chemicals are usually sprayed, and become airborne. If you do not have the proper personal protective equipment on (i.e. goggles, or masks), this may be the reason for your one watering eye. 

Examples of chemicals that may cause eye irritation

  • Oven cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Spray paint
  • Acetone 
  • Automotive chemicals
  • Most aerosols 
  • Room freshening sprays 
  • Carpet cleaners 
  • Industrial chemicals 

If you believe your day-to-day house cleaner is to blame, or you just want to live a healthier lifestyle, check out the 20 Reasons Force of Nature Cleaner is Legit.  Force of Nature is a natural cleaner and disinfectant that you make at home.

3. Industrial hazards

An industrial hazard that you might be exposed to in your workplace. Most industrial areas produce or work with products from plastics, metals, and chemicals. I am talking about factories, metalwork, automotive, aircraft maintenance, fuels, and so on. In these work environments, there may be fumes, dust, droplets, and particles floating around.

These exposures can definitely cause eye irritation and in some cases, just cause one of your eyes to become watery. 

4. Environmental hazards

The environment (outside) may be producing something that is causing your eyes to become watery. A good example is wildfires. During wildfires, there are massive amounts of smoke and ash produced. This affects the air quality as well as releases small particles into the air.

I lived in Colorado for 6 years and had my fair share of exposure to wildfire smoke.

The wildfire smoke exposure caused my sinuses and eyes (sometimes just one eye) to water.

 

irritation from smoke exposure can cause watery eyes infographic

5. Cold, influenza (flu), and other illnesses

During a cold or flu, your body is actively fighting off the “bad guys” on a cellular level.  This internal battle forces your immune system to work in overdrive to win over the illness. During this process, your body will produce enzymes to encapsulate the bacteria or virus.

The fact that you are sick, and potentially producing more mucus (stuffy/runny nose) may cause just one eye to water. 

6. Sinus infection

Sinusitis (sinus infection) is defined by the Stedman’s Medical Dictionary as “Inflammation of the mucous membrane of a sinus, especially of the paranasal sinuses.”

The inflammation can be caused by a virus or bacteria, chemicals, and allergies.

Once the nasal passage is inflamed, it could lead to a blocked path for mucus to escape the sinus, leading to a sinus infection.

7. Seasonal allergies

Allergies are a very common cause for just one eye to water. When you have allergies to pollen, dander, etc. the allergen can float directly into an eye and cause a response at the source.

Additionally, if you breathe in allergens (lungs and sinuses) your body is going to try and get rid of the allergen, resulting in mucus production, coughing, and potentially sinus irritation. 

8. Food allergies

When you hear food allergies, you might be thinking of symptoms like hives or an itchy mouth. NHS.uk lets us know that food allergies can also cause hay fever-like symptoms including itchy eyes. 

9. Rubbing your eyes

Some people don’t even realize they are rubbing their eyes, as it’s an ingrained habit they have formed. 

Don’t rub your eyes!

If you have a substance you are allergic to on your hands from touching an allergen-contaminated item (or even an animal) and you rub your eye, you are now introducing more allergen into your eye.

 

10. Foreign objects or substances

A foreign object in your eye can cause it to water, I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes you need confirmation on the matter to seek medical help. 

A foreign object is anything that is not naturally supposed to be in your eye. If you suspect something is in your eye and it’s not going away, go see a doctor.

Common Foreign Object & Substances Examples

  • Dust
  • Hair (to include eyelashes and eyelash extensions)
  • Makeup
  • Sawdust
  • Dirt
  • Sunscreen

Ensure that you have adequate eye protection when working in environments that are prone to debris. (i.e. lawn care, woodworking, sanding, grinding).

 

11. Eye fatigue can cause watery eyes 

Whether you spend most of the time looking at screens, reading, or staring into nothingness, this can strain your eyes and cause them to water. 

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you take a break from your activity every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

allergypreventions.com-give-your-eyes-a-break-visual-aid-rest

When you are reading, driving, writing, and spending time looking at screens (i.e. TVs, phones, computers, tablets) you are working your eyes into overdrive if you aren’t taking breaks.

Just like with workouts at the gym, you need to rest to allow your muscles to recover, heal and become stronger, your eyes are no different.

Screen time causes you to blink less often which can dry out your eyes. When you do blink you send a flood of moisture back to the eyeball, causing a flood of tears out of one, or both eyes.

 

12. Dry eyes

Believe it or not, having dry eyes causes your eye to water. Since your body is aware that the eye is dry, it ramps up tear production to protect the eye from dryness, and provide the moisture needed for the eye to function properly. 

Dry eye causes include medications, environmental conditions like wind, or physiological.

Eye drops can help, just make sure you use them as directed.

Since I have allergies and suffer from dry eye my doctor has recommended eye drops, which do provide me relief.

The eye drops that I received from my doctor are the Refresh “Celluvisc” version. They are kind of goopy so make sure you have a few minutes for them to coat your eyes.

For me, I apply the eye drops before I go to bed to provide all-night moisture, as needed.

 

13. Contact lenses

Contacts are great to boost your vision and ditch the frames, but you are literally putting a foreign object onto the eye. At first, your brain isn’t aware that you are putting a foreign object on your eyeball on purpose, so as a natural defense, your brain is telling your tear glands to flush it out!

As time moves on your brain should cut back on the tear production, as your body gets used to the contact lenses. If you are still tearing your body may be telling you that there is still a physical irritation or dryness happening. You may need to talk with the optometrist and switch out your contact brand or shape to get you some relief. 

 

14. Clogged tear ducts

A clogged tear duct is a good possibility for one watery eye. When you have a clogged tear duct, the tears might not have anywhere to go, except over your eyelid (like a tear) instead of down the tear duct. 

If the tears are pouring out your eyelid you may have a clogged tear duct.

Essentially tear ducts are drains for your eyes, like gutters on a house and so if one of your drains is clogged then the tears overflow.

15. Scratched Cornea

allergypreventions.com dust in eye 15 reasons for one watery eye

A scratched cornea, or corneal abrasion, is when the clear layer of your eye is scratched. The scratch causes a disruption of the eye and may lead to more severe symptoms besides one watery eye. This can be caused by just about any foreign object that makes contact with your eye.

Common Corneal Abrasion Causes

  • Debris from yard work
  • Sports
  • Tree branches
  • Your dog’s wagging tail

 

16. A Sty can cause a watery eye 

A sty (also spelled stye) is like a pimple that develops on your eyelid or sometimes on the inside of the eyelid which can cause your eye to water.

I have personally experienced sties a few times in my life and have sought out care from an optometrist.

My instructions were to apply a warm, moist compress over the eyelid to try and break down the fluid inside the pimple so it can release naturally.

These are also the same instructions from the Mayo Clinic.

 

17. Ingrown eyelashes

An ingrown eyelash is essentially an ingrown hair. Your eyelid may be causing your eyelashes to grow in toward the eyeball causing redness, discomfort, and a watery eye because of this eyelash irritation. If you notice just one eye is watering, look closely to see if you have any lashes that are poking you in the eye. 

 

18. Eye Infection

Infections of the eye including conjunctivitis (Pinkeye), bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can cause one eye to water. If you suspect an infection make sure you seek help from a medical professional, you may need special medications to help with your situation.

 

19. Medications

Some medications are known to cause side effects that cause the eyes to water. Two examples are antihistamines and decongestants which are typically used for allergies and colds. Both of these medications tend to “dry you out” which does take care of decongestion and runny noses.

These medications are also drying out your tear production, which can lead to dry eyes and ultimately watery eyes. 

There are other medications that also dry out your eyes, but from my research, antihistamines and decongestants are the top medications that can cause one watery eye. 

 

20. Your genes might cause chronic eye-watering

All of us are built differently, making some individuals more prone to having watery eyes, or dry eyes for that matter. Ask your close relatives if they suffer from the same types of conditions to investigate if this is something you have inherited. 

Home remedies for one watery eye 

The home remedies for one watery eye (or both) will depend on the cause of your watery eye. Here are generalized home remedy options to find relief from The American Academy of Ophthalmology 

  • Wash your hands often to remove potential contaminants, bacteria, or allergens 
  • Wear goggles and/or a mask when working around eye irritants
  • Use artificial tears (eye drops) to wash away allergens
  • Use an antihistamine if allergies are to blame
  • Try a warm, moist washcloth a few times a day if a clogged pore or stye is suspected
  • Rest your eyes during long periods of screen use, reading, or driving

Additional remedies to consider 

These additional remedies are what I recommend if your allergies are causing your eyes to water. I personally use both of these in my household and have found the best relief, long term, from allergy symptoms. 

Nasal rinsing can stop and prevent watery eyes 

A nasal rinse, like a  NeilMed® Neti Pot, works wonders for me to clear out my sinuses from pet dander, dust, pollen, illness, and everything else I am allergic to.

This device takes some time to get used to, but try it out and follow the directions!

A nasal rinse gently flushes out your sinuses with no burning (nothing like getting pool water up there) because it’s pH balanced to your body.  I use my nasal rinse any time I am miserable from watery eyes or sinus pressure. This is a natural approach with no medications. Give it a go!

 

You can pick up a NetiPot like this one from Amazon for a very reasonable price. They also sell a nasal rinse device called a Navage, which is automatic. I haven’t tried this one yet, but apparently, it does some really good sinus irrigation. 

 

Use a HEPA air purifier for eye irritation relief

The use of a HEPA air purifier is an investment for you and your family.

I wish we started using a HEPA filter sooner!

HEPA filters filter out all the allergens that are airborne from the air. We have seen substantial allergy improvement from using this air filter.

You can see the best-rated air purifiers on Amazon here: Best-Rated HEPA Filters on Amazon.

 

Check these Articles out!

Allergy Season: When is it, and when does it end?

Sinus Infection vs Allergies: What is the Difference?

 

 

By Chris

Chris is the creator of Allergy Preventions. As an allergy sufferer himself, his vision is to help others find relief from allergies. By combining his 14 years of Public Health experience, personal experience, and his thirst for knowledge, he is dedicated to providing quality recommendations to assist families with allergy symptom relief.