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Tear duct disorders

Of the various disorders that can affect the lacrimal apparatus of the eye, the most common is obstruction of the tear ducts.

The tear ducts connect the eye surface with the nose, allowing the drainage of tears. A narrowing of the tear ducts (stenosis) prevents tears from flowing properly and causes them to accumulate until they spill onto the cheeks (epiphora). Tear ducts stenosis can be congenital or acquired over time.
The main causes of tear duct obstruction are usually infections, malformations, deviation of the nasal septum or facial trauma (often related to tumours affecting the face).

Symptoms that occur most frequently in cases of tear duct obstruction are:

  • more or less abundant leakage of tears, with lacrimation of the eye;
  • recurrent conjunctivitis;
  • infection of the tear ducts (dacryocystitis);
  • facial abscess;
  • dilation of the lacrimal sac.

In general, however, symptoms vary depending on the location of the obstacle to outflow.

In order to prevent diseases of the tear ducts of the eye, it is important to keep the nasal passages clean by washing them with saline solution from childhood onwards.

It is important for anyone with stenosis of the tear duct since birth to follow the specialist’s instructions on how to wash and disinfect the nasal passages daily.

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The diagnosis of a tear duct disorder is usually made by the medical specialist, the ophthalmologist, following an examination and specific tests.

In the case of a possible tear duct obstruction, the specialist may require certain examinations to be carried out, such as tear duct probing or endoscopy.


Treatments for tear duct disorders vary depending on the cause and severity of the specific situation.

Narrowing and abnormalities of the tear duct are usually treated with probing, unblocking procedures, stents and tubes. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to resort to surgery as the only therapeutic option to resolve this pathology.