Why do I Have Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery?

watery eyes after cataract surgery


Cataract surgery is a common procedure performed to treat cataracts; a condition in which there is clouding of the lens in the eye. While cataract surgery is generally safe and effective, many patients experience watery eyes as a side effect after the procedure. In this article, we will explore the reasons for watery eyes after cataract surgery and discuss what can be done to relieve it.




Causes of Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery


Cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens in the eye; called a cataract; and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. The surgery is generally quick and safe and is known for its high success rates in restoring vision. However, like any surgical procedure, cataract surgery can have associated side effects, including watery eyes.

There are several causes of watery eyes after cataract surgery. Each of the causes are explained below:


  • Surgery and Inflammation

After cataract surgery, the eye may produce excessive tears as a reaction to the surgical operation and inflammation (swelling) caused by the procedure. This is the natural response of the eyes to surgery and the tears help to lubricate and protect the eye during the healing process. In most cases, the excessive tearing settles as the eye heals.


  • Development of Dry Eyes

Development of dry eyes is a very common side effect of cataract surgery. Surprisingly, dryness of the eye surface can cause your eyes to produce more tears. When you have dry eyes, your eyes either don’t make enough tears or the tears dry up too fast, making your eyes feel uncomfortable and irritated. In response to the irritation, your eyes may produce extra tears, which causes watery eyes.

There are several reasons why dry eyes develop after cataract surgery, such as:

  • Incisions or cuts made in the eye during surgery
  • Exposure to the light of the surgical microscope
  • Inflammation or swelling after surgery
  • Pre-existing dry eye or eye surface problems
  • Preservatives in eye drops used before or after surgery


  • Irritation from Eye Drops

Eye drops are prescribed after cataract surgery to prevent infection and reduce swelling in the eye. While they play an essential role in the post-surgical care and healing, they contain preservatives, that can lead to irritation and watering. Whether you have irritation from eye drops depends on factors such as pre-existing eye conditions, individual sensitivity and duration of use of eye drops

Excessive tearing in such cases gets better once the treatment with eye drops is finished. If you feel your eye drops are causing too much irritation, it is best to inform your doctor, who may change them to another type. It is extremely important not to stop using your prescribed eye drops without your doctors advice, as these drops are necessary for healing and proper recovery.


  • General Health Conditions

In addition to eye-related factors, general health conditions can also play a part in excessive tearing or watering after cataract surgery. Several underlying health conditions can affect the normal functioning of the tear film and the overall health of the eyes, leading to watery eyes after surgery.

Some systemic conditions that can affect overall eye health and tear production include diabetes, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome


  • Oral Medications

Several medications have side effects that affect tear production or the tear film structure. These medications can cause dryness and may trigger watery eyes in response to the irritation produced by dryness. Following are some of the medications that can cause dry eyes:

  • Antihistamines (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl)
  • Decongestants (Sudafed)
  • Anti-depressants (Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Elavil)
  • Blood pressure lowering medications (beta blockers and diuretics like Lasix, Microzide)
  • Hormonal therapy (Tamsulosin, Terazosin)
  • Anti-Parkinson’s (Sinemet)
  • Anti cancer drugs (methotrexate, mitomycin C, busulfan and cetuximab)
  • Anti acne drugs (Isotretinoin- Accutane)
  • Anti ulcer drugs (Protonix, Nexium, Tagamet, Pepcid AC)



Treatment for Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery


Dealing with watery eyes after cataract surgery can be frustrating, but there are several things you can do to manage this condition. Take the following steps to reduce excessive tearing after cataract surgery:


Use Prescribed Eye Drops

These eyedrops are meant to reduce swelling and irritation in the eye after surgery. Regular use if these eyedrops speeds up healing and reduces irritation and watering of the eyes.


Shield Your Eyes With Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses when outdoors helps protect your eyes from wind and dust, which can irritate them and worsen tearing.


Use A Humidifier 

Dry indoor air, and air currents from fans and air conditioning can worsen symptoms of watery eyes. Using a humidifier in your living space adds moisture to the air, improving dryness and reducing reflex tearing.


Avoid Irritants

Avoid irritants that can worsen tearing and discomfort. By reducing exposure to these irritants, you can help reduce eye irritation and watering. Be mindful of the following:

  • Smoke, whether from cigarettes, cigars, or other sources, can irritate the eyes and trigger excessive tearing. It is essential to avoid smoking or being in environments where you are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Dust Particles And Allergens present in the environment can add to eye irritation and cause excessive tearing. Reduce exposure to these irritants by keeping your living spaces clean, using air purifiers if necessary, and minimizing contact with known allergens.
  • Harsh Chemicals: Some cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal care items may contain chemicals that can irritate the eyes. Choose gentle and hypoallergenic products whenever possible to minimize the risk of eye irritation.
  • Strong Fragrances: Strong perfumes, colognes, and other heavily scented products can irritate the eyes and trigger watery eyes. Avoid using or being in the area of such fragrances if you notice they worsen your symptoms.


Stay Hydrated 

Drinking enough water helps keep your eyes lubricated and reduces dry eye symptoms and excessive tearing. In order to stay properly hydrated, make sure to drink water before you start feeling thirsty. You can also monitor your water intake by keeping an eye on your urine. If you’re properly hydrated your urine should appear colorless or a very light yellow. If it appears darker, it means you need to improve your fluid intake.


Avoid Eye Rubbing

While it may be tempting to rub your eyes when they are watery or irritated, it is important to resist the urge. Rubbing can increase swelling and may introduce dirt and bacteria which worsen symptoms. Instead, use a clean tissue to gently pat your eyes to soothe any discomfort.


Use Nutritional Supplements

Omega 3 fatty acids help with dry eye by reducing inflammation on the surface of the eye and improving the quality of tears. This can help reduce evaporation of tears from the surface of the eye and improve dryness and reflex watering.



When To Consult Your Eye Doctor


It is important to stay mindful of your symptoms after surgery and consult your eye doctor when necessary.

While watery eyes after cataract surgery are usually temporary, persistent or excessive watering should not be ignored. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms along with watery eyes:

  • Severe pain
  • Changes in vision
  • Increasing redness
  • Increasing eyelid swelling



Frequently Asked Questions


Is It Normal to Have Watery Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

Yes, watery eyes are a normal response to the surgical procedure and swelling caused by cataract surgery. However, if the excessive tearing continues or causes significant discomfort, it’s important to consult your eye doctor.


How Long Do Watery Eyes Last After Cataract Surgery?

Watering of the eyes typically gets better within a few weeks to months after cataract surgery. The exact duration varies from person to person and depends on the underlying cause of the excessive tearing and the progress in healing. Healing is delayed if you have underlying health issues such as diabetes, poor general health, or pre-existing eye conditions.


Can Cataract Surgery Cause Dry Eyes?

For people with normal tear production and composition, the dryness after cataract surgery is temporary.

However, if you had borderline dry eyes before cataract surgery, such that you had signs of it on the surface of your eye but did not have symptoms, it is possible that you may develop chronic dry eyes after surgery.


Can Dry Eyes Cause Watery Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

Yes, dry eyes can surprisingly result in watery eyes. Dryness of the surface of the eye from reduced tear production or rapid tear evaporation can cause irritation of the surface of the eye. When the eye is irritated, signals are sent to the tear producing glands to increase the production of tears. This reflex tearing occurs to reduce the irritation in the eye. In dry eye disease as the tears keep on evaporating from the surface of the eye, the signal to the tear glands to produce more tears is constantly sent, resulting in continued watering.


Which Are The Best Eye Drops For Watery Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

The two major causes of watery eyes after cataract surgery are swelling from surgery and dry eyes.

After cataract surgery, medicated eye drops are prescribed to reduce swelling and speed up healing. As the swelling settles, the eye becomes less irritated and watering lessens. These eye drops are essential to use after surgery and missing out doses can result in improper healing, poor results and infection.

For dry eyes, lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, can help improve irritation, discomfort and watering. When choosing artificial tear eye drops, it is better to choose unpreserved formulations rather than preserved ones.


Which Over The Counter Eye Drops Are Best For Watery Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

Preservative free (PF) artificial tear drops can be bought over the counter to help with irritation and watering after cataract surgery.

Preservatives are commonly used in eye drops to prevent the growth of bacteria and other organisms in the eye drop bottle. However, these preservatives can cause irritation and sensitivity in some individuals, especially when the eye is already healing from surgery.

Unpreserved artificial tear eye drops do not contain these preservatives, reducing the risk of additional irritation to the eye. They come in single-use disposable units that are unsealed before use and then disposed.

Since the preservative free unit is thrown away and a new one is opened each time, the risk of infection is reduced. This is even more important after surgery as there are healing wounds through which bacteria could enter.

Brand names of some the popular preservative free lubricant eye drops include:

  • Systane Ultra – Preservative Free vials
  • Systane Hydration – Preservative Free vials
  • TheraTears Dry Eye Therapy – Preservative Free
  • Blink Tears – Preservative Free
  • Soothe XP – Preservative-Free
  • Refresh Relieva PF
  • Refresh Optive – Preservative Free
  • Retaine MGD – Preservative Free
  • Oasis Tears PF Plus
  • Genteal Tears – Preservative Free




Watery eyes after cataract surgery are a common and temporary side effect for many patients. Understanding the causes, can help in managing the symptoms. By following the advice given above; like using prescribed eye drops, wearing sunglasses, using a humidifier, avoiding irritants, staying hydrated, and avoiding eye rubbing; you can effectively manage watery eyes.

Regular check-ups with an eye doctor are important to monitor the healing process and manage any complications. It is important to consult your doctor if you have severe symptoms or have increasing eye redness, swelling worsening of vision along with watering of your eyes.

By actively managing your symptoms and consulting your doctor when needed, you can have a smoother recovery and maximize your eye health.



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