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(Blocked Tear Duct; Dacryostenosis)

Pronounced: Dak-re-o-sis-ti-tis

En Español (Spanish Version)


Dacryocystitis is the inflammation of the lacrimal sac, found on the side of the nose near the inner corner of the eye. The lacrimal sac drains tears from the eye into the tear ducts leading into the nose.

Dacryocystitis is sometimes a congenital condition, which means it is present at birth. The condition affects as many as one-third of all newborn babies.

Blocked Tear Duct


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Dacryocystitis is typically caused by a blocked tear duct. When tears are unable to drain, they accumulate in the tear duct system leading to the growth of bacteria, which leads to the infection.

Risk Factors

The risk from untreated dacryocystitis is bacterial infection, which could cause a number of problems, including fever and infection elsewhere in the body.


The condition occurs most often in infants and can cause the following symptoms:

  • Excessive tearing or watering of the eye, which occurs when the child is not crying
  • Reddening of the side of the nose near the inner corner of the eye
  • Tenderness of the side of the nose near the inner corner of the eye
  • Swelling or bump on the side of the nose
  • Fever
  • Mucus or pus in the corner of the eye
  • Crusty eyelids or eyelashes after sleep


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Culture of the fluid from the lacrimal sac may be examined to determine the type of bacteria present and to determine which antibiotics may help
  • Physical examination of the eye and lacrimal system


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics—Eyedrops, oral, intravenous or antibiotic ointments are prescribed to kill the bacteria and clear up the infection.
  • Hospitalization—In very severe infections, patients may be admitted to the hospital to receive antibiotics intravenously.

Treatment for the infection does not treat the usual underlying cause of the infection—the blocked tear duct. To treat the blocked tear duct, the tear duct system may need to be massaged (once the infection has healed) to help remove the obstruction. If the tear duct cannot be unobstructed, surgery may be required to prevent recurring dacryocystitis.


There are no known ways to prevent dacryocystitis except for attempting to open a blocked tear duct system.


Kids Health

Penn State Children's Hospital


BC Health Guide

Health Canada


Blocked tear duct. US National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001016.htm Accessed May 30, 2007

Blocked tear duct (dacryostenosis). Health Topics: Eye Care. University of Virginia Health System website. Available at: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/uvahealth/peds_eye/dacryost.cfm . Accessed May 30, 2007.

Tear duct obstruction and surgery. The Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/tear_duct_obstruct_surgery.html . Accessed May 30, 2007

Last reviewed November 2007 by Marc Ellman, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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