Tears occur so continuously, and naturally, that eye lubrication is not something we usually think about. When we do, it is because something has gone awry. Most often, the type of abnormal tear production that we hear about is dry eye syndrome. Today, we want to go in the other direction and talk about blocked tear ducts, what they are, why they happen, and how this problem may be treated.
What is a blocked tear duct?
The tears that moisten the surface of the eye come from the lacrimal glands. Any excess in production drains into the tear ducts and the nasal passageway. The tiny tubule structure may become blocked, causing tears to back-flow and eyes to water excessively.
Blocked tear ducts are commonly seen in newborns, and often clear without medical treatment. However, there are additional reasons that this condition may develop.
Why a Tear Duct may Become Obstructed
- Trauma to the nose
- Abnormal craniofacial skeletal development
- Nasal polyps (benign growths inside the nose or sinus)
- Infected Conjunctiva (aka “pink eye”)
- Natural Age-related changes in ocular structure
Certain factors can increase the risk of tear duct blockage, including:
- Chronic inflammation of the eyes
- Surgery to the sinus or nose
- Surgery or trauma to the eye near the tear ducts
- Radiation treatment centered on the face or head
How a Blocked Tear Duct may be Treated
In some situations, no treatment is needed to clear an obstructed tear duct. Treatment should be obtained if redness or swelling become significant. The risk associated with this treated problem is that fungi, viruses, or bacteria may grow in the stagnation of unshed tears, which could lead to chronic infection.
Contact your eye doctor if you experience:
- Blood-tinge in tears
- Discharge of pus from the eye
- Recurrent infection
- Crust on the eyelashes
- Blurred vision
- Excessively watery eyes
In the office of your eye doctor, a thorough consultation is performed along with appropriate diagnostic evaluation that may involve irrigation and drainage testing. Treatment for a blocked tear duct revolves around the cause of excessive tearing. Sometimes irrigating the tear duct, or a course of medication is sufficient for resolution. In some cases, tiny tubes may need to be inserted to support drainage.
We are proud to provide a high standard of eye care to patients from Honolulu and Mililani. Call 808-625-5577 to schedule a visit with us.