Blocked Tear Ducts -- Causes and
Top
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January 31, 2017

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist












Is your eye red and watery? Look out for a blocked tear duct,
which is a common cause of eye irritation. A blocked tear duct
can be a painful experience, and cause significant watering and
redness. With a blocked tear duct, your tears cannot easily drain
away. This irritating condition is caused by a complete or partial
block of the tear drainage system.

Blocked tear ducts are common in newborn babies but can also
affect adults of all ages. What can you do if this happens to you?
Can you treat a blocked tear duct at home?

How Does a Blocked Tear Duct Happen?

Your tears come from the lacrimal glands in the face, located just
inside the upper eyelids. When the system is working correctly,
tears flow across the surface of the eye from the lachrymal
glands. They drain into what are called the "puncta", which are
in the inside of your upper and lower eyelids. Tears then travel
down a duct into the nose.

You can get a blockage anywhere in this drainage system, which
results in a buildup of tears as they fail to drain.  

What Are the Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct?

You’ll probably know that you have a blocked tear duct as you
will experience excessive tearing – you feel like you are crying all
the time. The white part of the eye turns red and there is
normally a painful swelling close to the inside corner of the eye.
You may have crusting on the eyelids, a mucus discharge from
the lids, and blurred vision. A blocked tear duct often appears
alongside a recurrent eye infection or inflammation of the eye.

What Causes a Blocked Tear Duct?

When a blocked tear duct occurs in a newborn, this is often due
to a congenital feature – many babies are born with a blocked
tear duct. There may be an abnormality in the duct or it will take
some time for the duct to fully develop.

At the other end of life, the tear draining system gets narrower
as you get older, which makes it more likely you will suffer from
a blocked tear duct in old age.

Inflammation or infection of the eyes causes a blocked tear duct
in many cases. Injury or trauma to the face may also result in a
blocked tear duct, and it can happen as a result of tiny particles
of dirt or even skin cells becoming stuck in the duct.
In rare cases, a blocked tear duct may be the sign of a tumor
pressing down on the tear drainage system.

Is a Blocked Tear Duct Dangerous?

Often a blocked tear duct will resolve itself without much
intervention. But if tears remain in the eye’s drainage system for
a long time, they become stagnant and turn into a breeding
ground for bacteria and viruses. If you have a blocked tear duct
and it persists for a long time, you should see a doctor. We
looked at the different types of treatment available for blocked
tear ducts, based on recent scientific research.


































1.
Watch and Wait as a Blocked Tear Duct Treatment?

Experts suggest that babies born with a blocked tear duct will
often get better on their own, without any treatment. This is
because the tear drainage system matures as the baby gets
older and the blocked membranes open.

But if the tear ducts do not open, doctors need to make a
decision whether and when to intervene.

A 2011 study from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore says
that this decision is based on how likely it is the problem will self-
resolve, and this rate can range from 32 percent to 95 percent.
Research is ongoing into more precisely establishing the rate of
self resolution.

2.
Treat an Eye Infection to Cure a Blocked Tear Duct

A blocked tear duct may be caused by a chronic infection in the
eyes or inflammation. One common type of inflammation in the
eyes is called pinkeye, or conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is
frequently caused by a viral infection. Treatment depends on the
cause of the inflammation --- if the infection is bacterial or
allergic, antibiotics are often used.

There is some evidence that suggests people with conjunctivitis
have a
Vitamin A deficiency, according to a 1976 study by BG
Rankov, although it is by no means certain that administering
vitamin A would help treat conjunctivitis.

3.
Treating a Blocked Tear Duct Caused by Injury or Trauma

Sometimes a blocked tear duct will be caused by a facial injury.

In this case, a doctor usually suggests waiting for weeks or a
month to see if the condition improves as the injury heals.  If it
does not resolve, surgery may be necessary.

A 2016 study from Recep Tayyip Erdogan University Medical
School, Rize, Turkey looked at the methods of surgically treating
traumatic tear duct injuries, which were mostly caused by motor
vehicle accidents.  They concluded that surgical treatment was
successful in 37 out of 40 cases.

4.
Remedying a Blocked Tear Duct Due to Foreign Bodies in
Your Eye


In many cases your tear duct gets blocked as foreign bodies get
trapped in the drainage system. It depends what kind of object
is trapped, according to a 2016 study by Martin-Luther-
Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, as to how the duct is
treated.

The researchers looked at incidences of tear duct problems and
demonstrated that it was important to carry out an accurate
differentiation of whether the object was made from shed skin
cells and salt crystals, or whether it was a foreign body, before
knowing which surgical procedure to carry out.

5.
Tumors Can Cause a Blocked Tear Duct

A 2016 study from Uniklinik Köln, Köln in Germany says that the
prevalence of tumors affecting the tear draining system is low,
but that this generates a risk of late diagnosis. It is important to
accurately diagnose a tear duct tumor so that your treatment
options are wider.

Tumors in the tear duct drainage system are rare but they can
be life-threatening. If your tear duct symptoms do not clear up
after a few weeks then it is a good idea to visit the doctor.

6.
Good Hydration Helps Prevent and Treat Blocked Tear Ducts

Dehydration can cause crystals and particles to build up in the
tear draining system, which can block the duct. You need to
make sure you drink plenty of fluids during the day to keep well-
hydrated.

You will need more in hot weather and when exercising but the
Institute of Medicine (2004) suggests that  general fluid intake
recommendations are 91 ounces (11-plus cups a day) for
women and 125 ounces (15-plus cups a day) for men. This is
for all fluid intake, including from foods.

7. Blepharitis May Block Your Tear Duct

Blepharitis is a common condition affecting the eyes that causes
red, swollen eye lids and crusting on eyelashes, which can lead
to blockages in the tear ducts.

Treating blepharitis mostly involves keeping the eyelids clean to
avoid buildup of the crusts, and sometimes using antibiotics.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine,
and it is believed to help the body make glutathione, which can
loosen the secretions and prevent a blocked tear duct.

A 2002 study from SSK Okmeydani Training Hospital in Istanbul
in Turkey evaluated the benefits of NAC in 50 patients with
blepharitis. In the study 25 people received 100mg of NAC three
times a day for eight weeks.

The scientists found that NAC significantly improved symptoms
of blepharitis.



































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Drinking enough water to stay
hydrated can help to open a blocked
tear duct in some cases.