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Tear Duct Obstruction

What is a blocked tear duct?

Tears normally drain from the eye through small tubes called tear ducts that stretch from the eye into the nose. A blocked tear duct occurs when the duct that normally allows tears to drain from the eyes is obstructed or fails to open properly. If a tear duct remains blocked, the tear duct sac fills with fluid and may become swollen and inflamed, and sometimes infected.

Causes of blocked tear duct include:

  • Remodeling of the boney skull
  • Age
  • Stones
  • Foreign bodies
  • Previously placed punctal plug
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Trauma
  • Previous sinus surgery
  • Radiation and chemotherapy
Blocked Tear Duct infographic

Treatment consists of evaluation in the office to determine the point of blockage. This usually is followed by surgery. The type of surgery is determined by the location and cause of the obstruction.

Punctal Occlusion

Side view of woman's eye

The puncta are the small openings found on the edge of the upper and lower eyelids next to the nose. Tears drain out of the eye through the puncta into the nose. This is why your nose runs when you cry. If you aren’t producing enough tears then you don’t want the tears that you are producing to be drained away. Punctal occlusion is painless and performed in the office, taking only a couple of minutes.

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