What is A Blocked Tear Duct?
Your eyes need to be moist in order to remain healthy. Tears are produced in the lacrimal gland, a specialized structure about the size of an almond, located under the outer one-third of the upper eyelid. Each time you blink, your eyelids spread tears over the surface of the eye, towards your nose, into ducts in both the upper and lower eyelids. These small ducts then drain those tears into your nose.
A blocked tear duct is a common condition in which a tear duct becomes partially or completely blocked. The blockage can lead to tearing, redness, and swelling in the affected eye. If you have these symptoms, quadruple board-certified surgeon Dr. Chip Cole can perform tear duct surgery to relieve your symptoms and improve your comfort. Call OCULUS Plastic Surgery in Atlanta, GA, to schedule a tear duct assessment and learn about your options.
"I cannot say enough positive things about Dr. Cole and his wonderful staff. I was referred for an eye issue and from day 1, I was treated with kind and compassionate care. Everything he was going to do during surgery was explained throughly and there were no unanswered questions. From my first visit to my post op visit, I received the best care. Julia called a couple of times after surgery to follow up and make sure I was comfortable. I more than highly recommend Oculus plastic surgery over and over again!"- E.P. / Google / Mar 30, 2022
"I absolutely Love Oculus. Dr Chip was very professional and yet very easy to talk with. My eye lid surgery was performed and successful. And, the staff there are very accommodating in every way. Just a good and trustworthy surgery place."- B.M. / Google / Mar 22, 2022
"Great experience all the way around! Staff and Dr. Cole are amazing, caring and knowledgeable. I highly recommend them."- T.L. / Google / Mar 17, 2022
"From the initial consultation speaking with Julia, I KNEW I’d chosen the BEST place. She was very patient, knowledgeable and held my hand all the way up to my visit with Dr. Cole and Jenny, his warm smile and suggestions made me confident that I scheduled my appointment for surgery before leaving the office. I had a cheek lift and blepharoplasty on December 22, they were so comforting, and occasional follow ups between visits made my recovery even more satisfactory. The picture in the black was taken December 14, 2020 and the picture in the white was taken February 20, 2022. Talking about AHHMAZING results and reversing the time. Julia, Jenny and Dr. Cole are an exceptional DREAM TEAM!"- K.R. / Google / Feb 21, 2022
"Every one at this practice is wonderful. They listen to you and are really helpful about your concerns with your surgery. Dr. Cole is a great doctor."- E.M. / Google / Jan 21, 2022
What to expect during tear duct surgery
A blocked tear duct may be the result of an infection, broken nose, chronic sinus problems, or other causes. These lead to a constant tearing of the eyes because they're not able to flow into the nose as they normally should. Patients with a blocked tear duct have issues like watery eyes, discomfort, swelling, and even infection. If your symptoms are persistent or severe, Dr. Cole can perform surgery to open the blocked tear duct. Our unique approaches include:
- External – we access the lacrimal system through a small incision in the side of the nose. Because the opening is larger, we have better access to the area. This procedure is 95% successful.
- Internal and endoscopic – we access the lacrimal system by direct access through the nose. Though the opening is smaller, this procedure is 85% successful.
If minor parts of the tear duct have not been damaged, OCULUS Plastic Surgery can perform a procedure using your own upper tear drainage system to establish a new, lower drainage point into the nose. This is called a dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR). In a DCR, a small silicone tube (Crawford tube) is placed in the tear ducts as a stent to help them stay open. This tiny tube is left in for 1 - 3 months and is easily removed in our office without anesthesia.
If the tear duct system cannot be rebuilt, Dr. Cole may recommend an artificial tear drain called a Jones tube. It is secured in place with a suture and is intended to be permanent. This tube is a small Pyrex, cylindrically-shaped glass tube that is surgically implanted behind the eyelids in the corner of the affected eye. It allows tears to drain out of the eye and into the nose. This procedure is called a conjunctivodacryocystorhinostomy (CDCR).
How long is recovery after tear duct surgery?
Recovery from tear duct surgery varies depending on which procedure is chosen. The team at OCULUS Plastic Surgery can review what to expect at the time of your consultation in Atlanta, but most patients are back to their normal routines within 1 – 2 weeks. Patients with a Crawford tube or Pyrex tube should expect some residual tearing post-surgery, but this is a normal and expected part of the process. This can usually be cleared with in-office irrigation. Dr. Cole may also recommend a medicine called Mucomyst, which can help minimize blockage.
If tearing is persistent after the Crawford tube has been removed, additional lacrimal surgery may be required. The good news is that only 5% of all patients who undergo DCR or CDCR surgery require an additional procedure. This is usually due to scar tissue formation that causes the new lacrimal passageway to close. In cases where repeat lacrimal surgery is necessary, a special medication called Mitomycin may be used to prevent excess scar tissue from forming again.
Blocked tear duct FAQs
What causes a blocked tear duct?
The most common cause of a blocked tear duct is an infection that leads to the narrowing of the tear duct passage. Other possible causes include a broken nose, trauma to the face or head, or chronic sinus issues that have been left untreated. Genetic factors may also play a role in the development of blocked tear ducts.
How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed?
Dr. Cole will perform a thorough examination when you come in for an assessment at OCULUS Plastic Surgery. During this visit, you will discuss your symptoms, including whether or not you have excess tearing, redness, swelling, or general discomfort. Testing is important to establish whether your symptoms are due to a blocked tear duct or another health issue.
What happens if a blocked tear duct goes untreated?
Untreated blocked tear ducts can cause serious problems like an infection, which can put your health at risk if it is not addressed as soon as possible. Excess tear production and chronic redness and inflammation also make it difficult to see properly, which can impact your quality of life.