When a tear duct is blocked, the tears cannot drain in a normal manner. This leaves the eyes watery and irritated.
This issue occurs due to a partial or total obstruction impediment in the tear drainage system. Tear duct blockage commonly occurs in newborns, but it will typically resolve without the need for treatment in the child’s first year.
A blocked tear duct in adulthood may occur because of an injury, tumor, or infection, but it is treatable in a vast majority of cases. The treatment approach depends on the cause behind the obstruction as well as the age of the patient.
Committed oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Hui provides lacrimal surgery to patients in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Coachella Valley, Riverside, Redlands, Yucaipa, Loma Linda, and other cities and suburbs in this region of the southwest.
Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct
The signs and symptoms of a blocked tear duct are as follows:
- Too much tearing in the eye
- Redness of the white portion of the eye
- Recurrent eye infection or swelling (pink eye)
- Painful inflammation near the inside eye corner
- Crusting of the eyelids
- Pus or mucus discharge from the eyelids and eye surface
- Blurry vision
Consulting an Eye Surgeon
Patients should visit an eye care specialist if they tear persistently for many days or if their eye is infected repetitively or continually. A tumor putting pressure on the tear drainage system may be causing a blocked tear duct. Early tumor detection can offer the patient more options for treatment.
Causes of a Blocked Tear Duct
A person of any age can develop a blocked tear duct. They may even be congenital (present at birth). The various causes of blocked tear ducts are as follows:
- Congenital Blockage: Many newborns have a blocked tear duct. The tear drainage system may not be completely formed, or there may be an abnormality in a duct. Frequently, a thin tissue membrane forms over the opening that secretes into the nose (nasolacrimal duct).
- Age-Related Changes: With age, small openings that drain tears (puncta) may become narrower leading to obstruction.
- Infection or Swelling: Swelling or chronic infection of the tear drainage system, eyes or nose can lead to tear duct blockage.
- Trauma or Injury: A facial injury can lead to bone damage or scarring close to the drainage system. This may disrupt the regular tear flow through the ducts. Tiny particles of dust or skin cells that have come loose can get stuck in the duct leading to obstruction.
- Tumor: A nose tumor or one along the tear drainage system can cause tear duct blockage.
- Eyedrops: In exceptional cases, the long-term use of specific meds such as eye drop for glaucoma treatment can lead to tear duct obstruction.
- Cancer Treatments: Chemotherapy medicines and radiation for the treatment of cancer could cause a blocked tear duct as a potential side-effect.
Since the tear ducts are not draining as they should, the tears that are present in the drainage system will stagnate. This could lead to the development of fungi, viruses, and bacteria which may cause repeated eye infections and swelling.