When tears flow down your eyes they drain into what’s commonly referred to as tear ducts. These ducts are a drainage system that empty into your nose. Tears gain entry through a tiny hole at the inside corner of each eye, where your upper and lower eyelids meet. Once inside, they course through the small canal to the lacrimal sac. From here tears are dumped into your nasal cavity through the nasolacrimal duct, where the fluid mixes with mucus. This explains why your nose runs when you cry.
Problems with a tear duct usually involves dacryocystitis or blockage. Dacryocystitis is inflammation of the lacrimal sac. Most common reason for this sac to become inflamed is a blockage leading to infection. This type of duct problem results in excess tearing (epiphora). And you may also experience a bump, redness and discharge from the inside corner of your eye.
Blockage is another excessive tearing problem, which can occur anywhere along your tear’s drainage system. Watery eyes causing blurred vision are the most common symptoms of an obstructed tear duct. And swelling may occur on the inside corner of your eye due to fluid accumulation.
Tears failure to drain normally increases the risk of infection and inflammation of the eye or tear ducts. Infected tear ducts can cause red and sore inner eye corner swelling. Also, you may see crusty discharge around your eyes, with eyelids stuck together when you awake. And an upper respiratory infection, for instance a cold, flu or sinus infection, may worsen your symptoms.
Many babies are born with blocked tear ducts because the ducts fail to fully developed before birth. Generally, it’s because a thin tissue in the tear duct fails to open in time. For most infants, the problem resolves itself within the first year.
Other causes for blocked tear ducts are:
- nasal polyps
- sinus problems
- tear duct lining thickens
- long term use of topical medication that treats glaucoma
- side effect of chemotherapy drug used to treat breast, lung cancer
Gently massaging your tear ducts may help them drain. This can be done by using clean index finger on both sides of your nose and firmly stroke down. A warm compress applied to the area helps encourages drainage as well. An infection may be treated with antibiotics. If you have recurrent or chronic blockages, surgical opening of your tear ducts may be required.