Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Blocked Tear Duct Treatment?
The obstruction of the lacrimal duct often requires special treatment methods, such as dilation, intubation, and, in severe cases, surgery. The well-trained and highly skilled doctors and specialists at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital provide patients with a wide variety of diagnostic procedures, as well as multiple treatment options, depending on the particularities of their specific condition.
Tears are permanently secreted by the lacrimal glands, which are situated in the upper region of the eye socket and help keep the eyeball lubricated. Each time we blink, our eyelids spread tears on the surface of our eyeballs, where the fluid acts as a protective layer against bacteria and infections. Subsequently, our tears drain through the lacrimal ducts located in the inner corner of the eye. This way, the protective layer is renewed on a regular basis. When there is a partial or complete blockage in the drainage system of the eye, tears continue to accumulate, causing watering eyes, swelling, irritation, and mucus or pus discharges. In severe cases, infections such as dacryocystitis can occur. When the obstruction is caused by structural problems or tumors, surgery may be needed to restore the function of the tear drainage system.
Treatment for blocked tear ducts varies depending on the cause of the condition. There are several approaches for removing a blockage, including antibiotics, massage techniques, balloon catheter dilation, probing, intubation, and dacryocystorhinostomy. If the obstruction of the tear duct is the result of injury or trauma to the eye, treatment may not be required, as the condition often tends to improve on its own during the healing process. Similarly, the majority of infants born with one or both lacrimal ducts blocked do not need treatment, since the ongoing development of the drainage system in the eye often clears the obstruction. However, if there are no signs of improvement within a few months, one or a combination of treatment approaches may be required.
Dilation, Probing, and Flushing »
Balloon Catheter Dilation »
If the obstruction of the tear duct occurs due to the presence of a tumor, treatment will entail attending to the underlying cause. Thus, the doctor will attempt to either decrease the dimension of the tumor and inhibit its further growth with appropriate medication, or remove it surgically.
Tear duct blockages can be either congenital or acquired. In congenital blockages, the lacrimal duct may be obstructed as a result of an underdeveloped drainage system, due to an abnormality of the duct, or because there is a small portion of tissue preventing tears from properly draining.
Obstructions within the drainage system of the eye can also occur when a patient is suffering from:
Additionally, a blocked tear duct may also occur as a result of:
- Aging (age-related structural changes may include the narrowing of the lacrimal duct opening)
- Long-term use of eye drops (though rarely, certain types of eye drops, such as those used to treat glaucoma, can also lead to an obstruction of the tear duct)
- Cancer treatment (blocked tear ducts may appear after a patient has undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment)
In such cases, the blockage is considered to be acquired.
Symptoms of Blocked Tear Ducts
The most common symptoms of an obstructed tear duct include:
- Redness, swelling, and tenderness around the inner corner of the eye
- Excessive tearing
- Recurring eye infection
- Discharge of mucus or pus around the eye
- Blurred vision
- Crusty eyelashes due to dried discharge
- Blood-tinged tears
Diagnosis of Blocked Tear Ducts
Diagnosing a blocked tear duct typically involves a complete ophthalmic examination, during which a doctor will be able to identify the visible signs of the condition. In addition, a series of tests may be required for a proper and accurate diagnosis. These tests include:
- Tear Drainage Test (Fluorescein Eye Stain): Using an orange dye (fluorescein) and blue light, a doctor will be able to determine whether the lacrimal duct is blocked. The patient will have one drop of fluorescein applied on the surface of their eye. If the substance is not properly drained within five minutes, a tear duct obstruction may be present.
- Irrigation and Probing: Another method of diagnosing and, in certain cases, also treating a potential tear duct blockage involves the irrigation of the eye drainage system and the insertion of a catheter along the lacrimal duct to detect and subsequently remove obstructions. A saline solution will be passed through the tear duct so that the doctor can confirm the existence of a blockage. If the patient is not able to feel or taste the saline solution in their throat after its flushing, the tear duct may be obstructed. Sometimes probing—the insertion of a thin tube through the lacrimal duct—can also be used.
- X-rays, CT Scan (Dacryocystogram), and MRI: These tests can accurately identify the location of the obstruction within the drainage system of the eye. A contrast substance will be flushed into the lacrimal duct and the region will subsequently be examined using one of these imaging tests. If the blockage has been caused by injury, trauma, or a tumor, these tests can also be helpful in allowing a doctor to conduct a detailed analysis of the affected area.
Risk Factors for Blocked Tear Ducts
The following factors may increase one’s chances of developing a blockage within their eye drainage system:
Chronic Eye Inflammation: Recurring eye-related conditions, such as conjunctivitis, cause the eyes to be constantly dry and irritated, and thus more prone to severe infections and tear duct blockages.
Age and Sex: Structural changes in the body related to aging may also target the drainage system of the eye, causing the narrowing of the tear ducts. Additionally, women have a higher predisposition towards developing this condition as they age.
Recurring Nose Infections: Chronic nasal infections, such as sinusitis, also increase one’s risk of tear duct obstruction, since nose infections often involve irritation and scarring of the tissue.
Nose Polyps: People who suffer from allergies, such as hay fever, are more prone to developing polyps, or small growths, which appear in the nose or sinuses. Polyps can cause blockages within the drainage system due to their proximity to the lacrimal ducts.
Glaucoma Treatment: Although rare, certain eye drops used in the treatment of glaucoma can also lead to obstructions in the tear duct, particularly if such medication is used over a prolonged period of time.
Surgery: If a patient has undergone one or more surgical procedures in the eye and nose region, their risk of developing a blocked tear duct increases, since such interventions may produce scarring of the adjacent tissue.
Cancer Treatment: Patients who receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer are at a higher risk of experiencing obstructed tear ducts, particularly if the cancer affects the head region.
Causes of a Blocked Tear Duct
A blocked tear duct may often occur due to:
- Congenital conditions or abnormalities (underdevelopment of the drainage system of the eye, craniofacial abnormalities, etc.)
- Structural changes caused by aging
- Chronic eye infections
- Recurring nasal infections
- Nose polyps
- Cancer treatment
- Glaucoma medication
- Surgery in the eye and nose region
- Injury or trauma to the eye or nose
- Tumors located in the eye or nose region
A blocked tear duct may resolve itself within a few months, or it may require medical treatment in order to be properly removed. There are also some alternative treatment methods, which can alleviate the symptoms, or, in mild cases, even help push the obstruction out of the drainage system:
- Applying a compress of warm water and boric acid powder over the affected eye for approximately five minutes is believed to stimulate the blocked tear duct. It is recommended patients repeat this procedure three times a day for optimal results.
- Warm tea bag compresses are also considered to be effective in treating an obstructed tear ducts since they promote circulation in the eye region. Chamomile tea is typically used, as the plant has antibacterial and calming properties, and is known to alleviate symptoms of infection, such as irritation and swelling.
- In the case of infants, breast milk is also considered to be an effective remedy for blocked tear ducts. It can be applied over the affected eye using a compress.
The following homeopathic remedies may help improve some of the symptoms of a blocked tear duct:
- Staphysagria: This plant has calming effects and can reduce inflammation in the case of an obstructed tear duct.
- Apis mellifica: A natural remedy prepared from certain species of honey bees, which helps treat infections such as dacryocystitis.
- Argentum nitricum (silver nitrate): This remedy can alleviate the effects of a blocked lacrimal duct due to its antiseptic properties.
- Calcarea carbonicum: This natural remedy is made from shells and is believed to stimulate circulation in the areas surrounding the eye and subsequently facilitate the removal of obstructions within the drainage system.
- Silica: A homeopath remedy containing silicon dioxide may improve symptoms of inflammation caused by a blocked tear duct.
There are no specific methods for preventing an obstruction in your eye's drainage system. However, the following tips may help you avoid a blocked tear duct:
Seek proper treatment for eye and nose infections: Since chronic infections, such as conjunctivitis and sinusitis, can increase your chances of developing blocked tear ducts, it is highly recommended to treat these conditions promptly so that the associated symptoms will subside.
Use protective eyewear when the situation requires it: By properly protecting your eyes you can avoid injury and trauma to the region, which can lead to an obstructed tear duct.
Avoid sharing makeup products with other people and replace them accordingly: Eye infections can be transmitted by sharing makeup products, such as mascara or eyeliner with other people. Moreover, eye-related infections can also appear as a result of using expired products, which may cause irritation and inflammation.
Maintain proper hygiene when using contact lenses and replace them regularly: Contact lenses can represent a favorable environment for bacteria. Thus, cleaning and replacing them appropriately can help prevent eye-related infections, which could cause a blocked tear duct
Are you experiencing symptoms associated with a blocked tear duct? The highly skilled doctors and surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital can answer questions, provide information, and suggest treatment options based on your specific medical condition.