Absolutely. In fact, excessive tearing (when your eyes “water up”) is a very common dry eye symptom. While this seems to contrast the “dry” part of dry eyes, it makes a lot of sense once you understand what causes it in the first place.

Excessive tearing is a dry eye symptom that happens most often in patients with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). It is also most closely associated with evaporative dry eye, now considered the most common type of dry eye disease.

Your meibomian glands create the lipid or oily part of your tears. This slows evaporation to keep your tear film stable. Patients with MGD have an inflammation of the meibomian glands to where the glands to become clogged or blocked. When this happens, too many tears evaporate. The dryness factor comes in due to the eye not being properly lubricated, causing irritation.

This irritation signals to your brain that something’s not quite right. Your tears aren’t there merely to keep you comfortable, they’re designed to protect the eye and keep your tear film healthy. Your brain’s response? It keeps producing more tears than needed to fight the irritation. When this happens you can tear up like you’ve been chopping up an onion, only without the onion. The thing is, your tears go away when you get away from the onion. They don’t if you have MGD.

As you might guess, patients with this type of dry eye shouldn’t use artificial tears. Thanks to technology we have advancements designed for patients with this very type of dry eye condition. LipiView, for example, provides detailed images of your tear film to measure the thickness of the lipid (oil) layer. This helps the doctor diagnose the extent of MGD and how to treat it. LipiFlow is designed to treat MGD by applying gentle pressure and controlled warmth to unclog blocked meibomian glands. In some cases, the TearLab test may be used to test “tear osmolarity”, or the salt content in your tears.

So if you’re wondering why you’re tearing up during a happy movie, it may be dry eyes. If so, it never hurts to have a qualified dry eye specialist take a look.