Swollen tear ducts, or dacryocystitis, is an inflammation of the tear drainage system in one or both eyes that cause excessive tearing, and often inflammation and discharge in spite of there being no presence of allergies, cold, or other issues. This can happen to people at any age, however it is most generally observed in infants– with one in 3 impacted.
What Causes Swollen Tear Ducts?
In adults, infection sets in when the tear duct is obstructed, often as an outcome of the natural development pattern of surrounding bones. Their development narrows the tear ducts, causing a clog, which allows bacteria to gather and gradually grow.
Lots of babies are born with a membrane in the tear duct that does not open, or is too narrow to enable the passage of tears. This is really normal, and most of the times will be outgrown by age 1. Nevertheless, if it lasts beyond age 1, a small, normally pain-free surgery is carried out to open the duct (generally lasting 5 minutes, and performed in your doctor’s workplace).
Symptoms of Swollen Tear Ducts
Aside from observing the normal inflammation, swelling, and excess tearing present with infected tear ducts, an eye care specialist can run other tests to determine the disorder. These include pressing near the sinus area for discharge through the tear ducts, in addition to dye tests, where colored fluid is run through the tear ducts to see if they are clear.
Symptoms of Swollen Tear Ducts consist of:
- Eye and eyelid inflammation
- Eye swelling
- Excess tearing
- Eye discharge
How Tear Ducts Get Blocked
There countless reasons for blocked tear ducts. Some babies are born with tear duct problems, most of which resolve themselves as they age.
An injury to the eye or nose can interrupt the tear ducts’ function, and even something as little as dust or dirt stuck in the tear duct can cause problems. In unusual cases, obstructed tear ducts may be brought on by a tumor. And tear duct obstruction is often a side effect of chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
Who Is at Risk for Blocked Tear Ducts
Particular factors increase your risk of establishing an obstructed tear duct. If you have chronic eye inflammation, specifically from conjunctivitis or other infections, it’s likely to impact your tear ducts.
Older women tend to be at higher risk, as are those who have had eye or sinus surgeries. Some glaucoma medications can cause obstructed tear ducts also.
Treatments for Swollen Tear Ducts
In most cases, oral antibiotics are the treatment of choice for swollen tear ducts. They are quick and effective, normally clearing the infection up in a matter of days. In some cases where infections don’t react to antibiotics, surgery may be advised to clear the tear ducts, or get rid of surrounding bones that may be triggering the tear ducts to be too narrow.