Watery eyes have so many causes – not the least of which is a blocked tear duct. The inner corner of your eye is where your tear ducts are situated.
Known as the puncta, they are responsible for draining your excess tears from your eyes and down into the nose. If the puncta are blocked for any reason, the tears will remain
on the surface of your eye, and they will spill out over your eyelids and onto your face. The blockage can be partial, or complete – and this will
result in the severity of overflow of tears, known as epiphora.
While watery eyes can be a major symptom of a blocked tear duct or ducts, there are other symptoms associated with this problem as well, including:
- Recurrent episodes of conjunctivitis and other eye infections (such as dacryocystitis).
- Blurred vision.
- Blood in tears (tears will be stained pink or red).
- Mucus discharge from the eye (regardless of conjunctivitis).
- Swelling, tenderness, or pain at the inner corner of the eye, where the tear ducts are located.
While the puncta are commonly the culprit of blockage, it can occur at any part of the tear duct system, such as the canaliculi – the canals in the lids that carry the tears to the sac on the side of the nose (called the lacrimal sac). In fact, any part of the system can be blocked, including the nose, and result in watery eyes.
So what causes these blockages to occur? There are several causes of blocked tear ducts:
- Congenital defects: Down syndrome, duct abnormalities, or tissue over the nasolacrimal duct can cause this problem.
- Facial injuries or eye trauma: If a facial or eye injury is present, a problem with bone or cartilage damage can cause the blockage.
- Aging: Growing older can change the shape of the eye, causing blockages in the puncta.
- Tumors, cysts, and foreign objects: Benign or cancerous tumors or cysts can develop, as well as grit from the duct system can create an obstruction.
- Eye infections: Inflammation and mucous can plug the area, causing the ducts to become blocked.
- Medications: Topical eyedrops, and certain chemotherapy treatments (such as Taxotere) can have a possible side effect of tear duct obstruction.
If left untreated, complications can occur. The tears in your eye need to move, as any liquid becoming stagnant in the body is more open to infections – bacterial and fungal. Additionally, viruses can be opportunistic and penetrate the area, causing further problems. These infections can lead to eye damage and vision impairment.
If you have watery eyes, it is best to find out the cause by visiting your eye care professional, before infections get a chance to set in. Treatments depend entirely upon what is causing the problem. Irrigation, surgery, tumor removal or shrinkage attempts (depending on the cause of the tumor), and massage techniques are all used to unblock the tear duct system.
Make an appointment to see Dr Jim Kokkinakis if you have watery eyes on (02) 9290 1899. Even though some forms of watery eyes might need referral to a specialised ophthalmologist called an oculoplastic ophthalmologist, often no referral is required and can be treated in house.