An obstruction in the adult tear ducts may be caused by aging, trauma, inflammation from conditions like arthritis, certain medications, and tumors.
When the smaller tear ducts that maintain moisture on the eye become blocked, the main tear duct begins to overproduce tears and the eyes become watery, especially during activities like using computer screens and reading.
To correct the tear duct obstruction, adults may need dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) to clear the blockage or create a new passageway for the tears.
Patients may complain of excessive tearing or discharge from the inner corner of the eye. Other symptoms may include swelling, pain, blurred vision, eye irritation, and signs of infections. If caught early, a tear duct obstruction may be cleared without surgery by using antibiotics and warm compresses.
DCR surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and often takes less than 45 minutes under general anesthesia or sedation. In DCR surgery, a new tear passage is created, effectively bypassing the area of blockage in the tear duct. It may be performed either externally through a cosmetic skin wound, or through the nose (endoscopic). A tiny stent may be placed in the new tear drain and kept there for several months after the procedure to ensure the duct will remain open.
DCR has a very high success rate and is considered a safe, low-risk procedure. However, all surgical procedures do carry some risk of complications. Those associated with a DCR are typically bleeding, infection, and problems stemming from use of anesthesia. These are quite rare and risk factors are minimized by choosing a skilled, experienced surgeon and following all pre- and post-surgical instructions.