Lacrimal Duct Obstruction

Lacrimal Duct Obstruction



A lacrimal duct obstruction is blockage of the tear duct, the thin channel that normally drains tears from the surface of the eye.


The lacrimal glands, located above each eyeball, produce tears. The tears flow over the eye, then drain through the nasolacrimal ducts. A tiny hole at the inner edge of each eyelid marks the opening of the ducts, which lead to the lacrimal sacs located on the side of the nose. The tears pass from the sacs into the nasolacrimal ducts and then into the nose.
When a tear duct becomes obstructed, tears may spill over the eyelids and run down the face. Stagnant tears within the system can become infected, leading to recurrent red eyes and infections. Excessive tearing can also produce secondary skin changes on the lower eyelids.

Causes and symptoms

An obstructed lacrimal tear duct can result in inflammation and infection of the lacrimal sac. The area beneath the eyes next to the nose can become red, inflamed, and sensitive to the touch. The area usually is swollen, and there may be a mucous discharge from the opening of the nasal corner of the eye. Common complaints include itching, irritation, burning, redness, foreign body sensation, and tearing.
Children frequently have a congenital lacrimal duct obstruction. Six to ten percent of all children are born before their tear ducts are open.
In adults, a common cause of lacrimal duct obstruction is involution, which is progressive degeneration occurring naturally with advancing age, resulting in shrivelling of organs or tissues. Other causes include eyelid disorders, infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, inflammations, the use of eye drops or excessive nasal spray, systemic chemotherapy, trauma from previous surgeries, injury to the bone at the side of the nose, foreign bodies, sinus disease, nasal polyps, and malignant or benign tumors.


If the primary symptom is excessive tearing, the first step is for the health care professional to determine if the overflow of tears is due to an increase in tear production or a decrease in tear drainage. Causes of increased tear production may include trichiasis, a disease in which the eyelashes produce constant irritation, and eyelid malpositions and diseases. If abnormal tear production is ruled out, then obstructions in tear drainage is the most likely cause of the excessive tearing. Additional observations of swollen lacrimal sac area and purulent eye discharge indicate that there may be a lacrimal duct infection present. To further define the diagnosis, the lacrimal discharge may be cultured to determine possible infective agents, while various imaging techniques may be used to detect the type of obstruction. Dye tracer tests are also used to test for blockages.


Lacrimal duct obstructions in children often resolve spontaneously, with 95% showing resolution before the child is one year old. Daily massaging of the lacrimal sac may help open the blockage. A topical antibiotic ointment may be applied if infection is present. If the blockage is not resolved after several weeks to months of this therapy, a physician may attempt forceful irrigation. Surgical probing to open up the duct under general anesthesia is a last resort, after a year or so of less invasive treatments.
In adults, conservative treatments are usually recommended. The infected or inflamed area may be massaged, with warm compresses applied to provide relief and speed the healing process. The health care provider may also massage or irrigate the infected area. Topical antibiotic ointments and oral antibiotics may also be used reduce infection. The use of analgesics such as aspirin may be recommended to control discomfort and reduce swelling. Severe cases may require surgical intervention to prevent future recurrences. Surgical approaches include insertion of a probe or catheter to remove an obstruction or creation of an artificial duct to bypass the obstruction.


If more conservative approaches fail to clear the obstruction, surgical procedures are available, with success rates greater than 90%.


In many cases, the cause of a lacrimal duct obstruction is not known. However, in some cases, lacrimal duct obstruction may be caused by smoking and abuse of nasal sprays.



Camara, Jorge G., and Alfonso U. Bengzon. "Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction." eMedicine Journal August 24, 2000.

Key terms

Lacrimal duct — A short canal leading from a small orifice at the medial angle of each eyelid to the lacrimal sac.
Lacrimal gland — An almond-shaped gland that secretes tears.
Lacrimal sac — The dilated upper end of the nasolacrimal duct in which the lacrimal ducts empty.
Nasolacrimal duct — A channel that transmits tears from the lacrimal sac to the nose.
Purulent — Consisting of or containing pus
Tear — A drop of the clear, salty fluid secreted by the lachrimal gland.
Trichiasis — A disease of the eye, in which the eyelashes, being turned in upon the eyeball, produce constant irritation by the motion of the lids.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Mucosal symptoms included oral ulceration in 5 patients, nasal obstruction in 12 patients, and lacrimal duct obstruction in 2 patients (in 1 patient, cartilage involvement of the sternoclavicular joint near the primary CL lesion was also noted).
Mucosal complaints in our study included nasal obstruction, rhinorrhea, nasal discharge, oral ulceration, bone lesion, and lacrimal duct obstruction. Lacrimal duct obstruction is less known; it is described in the literature in 4 patients, 20-75 years of age, who had nasal lesions resulting from ML and sought treatment for chronic dacryocystitis (23).
Since the diameter of the NLD bone entrance is shorter in men and lower lacrimal duct obstruction is more frequent in women our results may suggests the diameter of bone entrance of the NLD in general population does not appear to be an influential factor in the pathogenesis of lower lacrimal duct obstruction in Mexican population.
They cause a variety of clinical signs that include conjunctivitis and lacrimation and lead to conjuctival congestion resulting in corneal opacity, cornea ulcerations and conjunctival swelling due to lacrimal duct obstruction by purulent fluid (Otranto and Traversa, 2005).
Signs and symptoms associated with nasal tooth include nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, abscess, ulceration, recurrent epistaxis, rhinitis caseosa, oronasal fistula, chronic sinusitis, facial pain, headaches, external nasal deviation, speech problems and occasionally no symptoms.1 Aspergillosis,8 lacrimal duct obstruction, rhinosinusitis, nasal septal perforation,7 oronasal communication and osteomyelitis are varying degrees of morbidity associated with a nasal tooth.
A search for congenital eye malformations associated with other antidepressants found one case of a lacrimal duct obstruction and one case of an eyelid malformation in babies exposed to bupropion (Wellbutrin) in utero.
The search found one case of a lacrimal duct obstruction and one case of an eyelid malformation in babies exposed to bupropion (Wellbutrin) in utero.
Lacrimal disease is the common and frequentlyoccurring disease of ophthalmology (Tao et al., 2013; Hodgson et al., 2014; Lee et al, 2014), including the inflammation, trauma, calculus, polyps, tumors and congenital abnormalities of lacrimal duct, the lacrimal duct obstruction was considered as the main pathological feature, and the main clinical manifest was the epiphora (Berlucchi et al, 2003; Agrawal et al, 2013; Tao et al, 2014).
The clinical value of dacryoscintigraphy in the selection of surgical approach for patients with functional lacrimal duct obstruction. Ann Nucl Med.
Silicone intubation for the treatment of congenital lacrimal duct obstruction: successful results removing the tubes after six weeks.
Rhinoplasties involving lateral osteotomy may cause problems like poor aesthetical outcomes, airway obstruction, lacrimal sac injuries and temporary lacrimal duct obstruction. Minimizing these complications involves detailed anatomical knowledge of nasal bony and cartilaginous structure, as well as of frontal process of maxilla, where osteotomy is performed (Parkes et al.).
INTRODUCTION: Congenital naso lacrimal duct obstruction is one of the common congenital anomaly.