Tear Duct Obstruction

Man rubbing eyes

What Is a Tear Duct Obstruction?

Have your eyes been unusually watery lately? You may have a tear duct obstruction, a condition that prevents tears from draining from your eyes. Although the condition is certainly annoying, it's usually fairly easy to treat.

What Happens When You Have an Obstruction

Tears keep your eyes moist, wash away debris, and help bend light rays as they enter your eyes. A healthy tear film prevents dry eye and keeps your eyes comfortable. Tears exit your eyes through tiny openings called puncta in the corners of your upper and lower eyelids. The tears then enter the nasolacrimal ducts and drain into your nose.

If there's a blockage in the duct, tears build up in your eyes. In addition to causing watery eyes, blockages can blur your vision and make your eyes irritated and itchy. In some cases, a tear duct obstruction can lead to a bacterial infection called dacryocystitis. Symptoms of the infection include yellow discharge from your eye, pain, crusty eyelids, swelling, redness, and fever.

Who Gets Tear Duct Blockages?

Tear ducts blockages are particularly common in infants and affect almost 20% of newborns, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). In adults, obstructions can be related to:

  • Sinus or Eye Infections. Scarring caused by chronic sinusitis may be the reason for your obstruction. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections may increase your risk of developing a tear duct blockage.
  • Polyps. These benign growths in your nose can block your tear ducts.
  • Injury. Did your eyes become watery after you broke your nose? Scar tissue in your nose may be to blame. Injuries to the eyes may also cause obstructions.
  • Surgery. Eye or sinus surgery could also cause scarring that may block your duct.
  • Chronic Eye Condition. People who have certain eye conditions, like uveitis or glaucoma, are more likely to be diagnosed with tear duct obstruction.
  • Abnormalities: Abnormalities in the way your face or skull developed might cause narrower tear ducts that are prone to obstructions.
  • Cancer Treatment. Some people develop tear duct obstructions after chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
  • Tumors. A tumor that grows near your eye could eventually block a duct.
  • Aging. As you get older, your punctum may become narrower and more prone to blockages.

How Is Tear Duct Obstruction Treated?

Treatments for an obstruction vary depending on the cause. Babies usually outgrow the problem in four to six months, according to the AAO. If your blockage is caused by a bacterial infection, your optometrist will prescribe antibiotics that will clear up the infection.

Your optometrist can perform a procedure to remove the blockage by flushing the tear duct with fluid. Dilating the duct with a balloon can also clear an obstruction. During a balloon catheter procedure, your eye doctor puts a tiny, uninflated balloon in the duct, then inflates it, which removes the blockage.

A stent offers another option if you have an obstruction. A small tube placed in the duct keeps it open. Stents usually only remain in your eye for a few months. Drainage may also improve if your doctor makes a few tiny cuts to widen your puncta.

Surgery might be needed if these treatments aren't helpful. During a surgical procedure, your doctor creates a new pathway for your tears.

Are you worried that your watery eye may be caused by tear duct obstruction? We'll examine your eyes and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. Contact our office to schedule your appointment.


Sources:


Medical News Today: What Is Dacryocystitis?

Cleveland Clinic: Blocked Tear Duct, 5/27/21

American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is a Blocked Tear Duct?, 3/1/15

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus: Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

Introducing SR Conversations! A fast, easy way to get in touch with us!

We know you're busy, so just send us a text!

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

10:00 am-6:00 PM

Tuesday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

Closed

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

  • "Dr. Casas and her staff are so patient and friendly. Dr. Casas prescribed glasses and I had the toughest time picking out frames. They didn’t rush me, but instead made helpful suggestions and now I have an awesome pair of frames, not to mention the fact that I can see ten times better than before. You guys are the best!"
  • "I’ve been going to Dr. Casas for over five years now and even though I only see him once a year for my annual exam, he and his staff always make me feel very welcome and take care of all my eye care needs. Dr. Casas and Associates is the best at what they do and make you feel right at home."
  • "I was having headaches and felt my contacts were easily drying out all the time. I went in to see Dr. Casas and after an evaluation, he suggested a switch in the type of lenses I use. Within a week of using the new lenses, I noticed a change and haven’t had any problems since. Thanks, Dr. Casas!"
  • "I had considered Lasik surgery in the past, but was still hesitant about the process. Dr. Casas was very thorough in her consultation with me and answered all of my questions, making me feel comfortable with going forward with the procedure. I’m so glad I did the Lasik, it has been of great convenience to me and my sight has never been better"

Featured Articles

Read up on informative topics

  • Presbyopia eye drops

    Would you like to stop squinting when you look at close objects? A new kind of eyedrops can improve presbyopia, an age-related vision problem. ...

    Read More
  • Healthy Vision Month

    Get ready for Healthy Vision Month by upgrading your vision habits. ...

    Read More
  • Dry Eye

    Sometimes your eyes don’t make enough tears or the tears evaporate too fast because they don’t have the right amount of compounds in them. This is called dry eye. Up to 5% of Americans complain of some form of dry eye. Individuals who wear contact lenses or have undergone LASIK or other types of ...

    Read More
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

    Similar to a bruise under the skin, a subconjunctival hemorrhage happens when a small blood vessel located between the sclera (white portion of an eye) and the conjunctiva (lining on the surface of an eye) breaks and covers the sclera with blood. Unlike broken blood vessels located under the skin which ...

    Read More
  • Decorative (Plano) Contact Lenses

    Colored contact lenses allow you to temporarily change your eye color whether or not you need to correct impaired vision. In this way, you can create a more subtle eye appearance, wear a crazy design for special occasions, or just enjoy a new eye color. Will Colored Contacts Change the Way I See? Yes, ...

    Read More
  • Wandering Eye

    A wandering eye is a type of eye condition known as strabismus or tropia, and it may be caused by damage to the retina or muscles that control the eye, stroke or brain injury, or an uncorrected refractive error like farsightedness. With a wandering eye, one eye deviates or wanders in a different direction ...

    Read More
  • Reading and Writing

    For many adults, reading and writing come so naturally that they seem almost effortless. However, reading and writing are actually complicated skills that take significant effort to learn. For example, reading involves recognizing letters, associating letter combinations with their corresponding sounds, ...

    Read More
  • Lazy Eye

    Lazy eye, also referred to as amblyopia, is a condition that develops in infancy or early childhood, and it typically starts when the focus in one eye is more enhanced than the other. The eye with less focus might be impaired due to a significant amount of farsightedness or astigmatism, or something ...

    Read More
  • Dyslexia

    Dyslexia When a child has difficulty reading due to problems recognizing speech sounds and learning how they connect to words and letters, the condition is known as dyslexia, a learning disorder caused by genetic traits that disturb how the brain works. It affects areas of the brain dealing with language ...

    Read More
  • Crossed Eyes

    Crossed eyes, also known as strabismus, refer to a condition in which both eyes do not look at the same place at the same time. Often times they both turn in, but may also turn out. What Causes Crossed Eyes? The six muscles attached to each eye, which control how it moves, receive signals from the brain. ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles