Infected tear ducts, or dacryocystitis, is an inflammation of the tear drainage system in one or both eyes that cause excessive tearing, and sometimes redness and discharge despite there being no presence of allergies, cold, or other concerns. This can happen to people at any age, but it is most typically observed in babies. 

What Causes Infected Tear Ducts?

In adults, infection sets in when the tear duct is blocked, sometimes as a result of the natural growth pattern of surrounding bones. Their growth may narrow the tear ducts, causing a blockage, which allows bacteria to collect and gradually grow.

Many infants are born with a membrane in the tear duct that may not open, or is too narrow to allow the passage of tears. This is not uncommon, and in most cases will resolve by age 1. However, if it lasts beyond age 1, a minor, generally painless surgical procedure can be performed to open the duct. 

Symptoms of Infected Tear Ducts

Aside from observing the typical redness, swelling, and excess tearing present with infected tear ducts, an eye care professional can run other tests to pinpoint the disorder. These include pressing near the sinus area for discharge through the tear ducts, as well as dye tests, where colored fluid is run through the tear ducts to see if they are clear.

Symptoms of Infected Tear Ducts may include:

  • Eye and eyelid redness
  • Eye inflammation
  • Excess tearing
  • Eye discharge
  • Fever

Treatments for Infected Tear Ducts

In most cases, oral antibiotics are the treatment of choice for infected tear ducts. They are fast and effective, usually clearing the infection up in a matter of days. In some cases where infections don’t respond to antibiotics, surgery may be recommended to clear the tear ducts, or remove surrounding bones that may be causing the tear ducts to be too narrow.


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