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Tear Duct Obstruction

What causes tear duct obstruction?

The lacrimal system in your eye is responsible for keeping your eye properly lubricated by producing and draining tears. When the lacrimal gland produces tears, they exit the surface of the eye through a system of canals beginning in each eyelid and ultimately ending in the nose (nasolacrimal duct). When this duct becomes obstructed, it can cause excessive tearing, redness of the eye, and infections.

Not all excessive tearing is the result of tear duct obstruction. Sometimes the eyes tear because of irritation or even, paradoxically, as a response to being too dry. Your oculoplastic surgeon can evaluate the many causes of tearing to arrive at the best treatment option.

How is tear duct obstruction treated?

Nasolacrimal duct obstructions in newborn babies generally resolve on their own within the first year of birth. If there is no improvement by age 1, a relatively simple procedure (probing and intubation) to open up the tear drain blockage may be required and is usually very successful.

Tear duct obstruction in adults can be corrected through surgery to create a new tear drain opening that bypasses the obstruction in the nasolacrimal duct. This surgery is called a dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) and is performed as an ambulatory surgery. A soft silicone tube is often placed in the newly-created passageway to keep it open and is removed several weeks after surgery in the doctor’s office.  Though every patient’s particular situation is different, in general, most patients experience a significant improvement in tearing after surgery.

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