Blockage of the Tear Drainage System

Our eyes need to remain moist to be healthy and in order to accomplish this, we have a tear (lacrimal) gland in the outer corner of the eye that produces the liquid portion of the tear. The tears are then drained away through the lacrimal drainage system in the inner corner of the eyelids. When it is blocked, you can experience excessive tearing that trickle down your cheek as if you’re crying. 

Causes and Symptoms of Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

The cause of nasolacrimal duct obstruction is typically ill-defined and believed that inflammation from allergies or the common cold may be enough to cause scarring that leads to closure (blockage) of the drainage system. A blockage in the nasolacrimal duct causes excessive tearing of the eye. 

There is a form of blockage that is common in babies. A nasolacrimal duct obstruction in a baby is caused by the membrane at the opening of the duct to the nose not opening when the baby was born. The blockage in babies usually resolves by the age of 2. 

Treating Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

For adults, treatment of nasolacrimal duct obstruction involved surgery to create a new passage directly from the sac through the nose. The procedure usually takes less than an hour and is accomplished through the nose with no visible scarring. 

For children, the majority of cases resolve on their own by the age of 2. Parents are encouraged to massage the sac to allow the membrane to open up on it’s own. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the side effects of the treatment?

In some patients, the success of the surgery may mask pre-existing symptoms of dry eyes. In rare circumstances, patients can experience a nose bleed after surgery that requires packing the nose overnight. 

What is the success rate for treating nasolacrimal duct blockage?

For more than 90% of patients, the treatment is successful after the first surgery. In about 5-10% of patients, a membrane of scar can form where the passageway was created causing the blockage to reoccur. In these cases, the scar can be removed and a stent re-inserted. 

What is the recovery time for treatment?

Patients are asked to take it easy for up to 10-14 days after surgery, and to avoid heavy lifting, increasing blood pressure and vigorous exercise to decrease the risk of bleeding.