Tear duct in overdrive
August 25, 2014 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a problem with my tear duct in one eye becoming intermittently blocked, and it's a huge pain in the...eye. This has been going on for about a year, and seems to flare up once or twice a month for 4-5 days at a time. I have seen an ophthalmologist - the first time he opened up the duct with a tool (not fun) and gave me some eyedrops. At the follow-up visit he cleared me and said to massage the side of my nose in the shower to prevent recurrences. He also indicated my next step would be surgery, which I'd super duper love to avoid.

When it 'flares up', my eye basically pours water for a few days and gets generally angry from all the watering. Sometimes I will wake up with goopy eye, but it usually doesn't turn into a full-on infection. I've been doing the shower-nose-massage thing, but it's not preventing it 100%.

Because it's basically a minor annoyance, I'd like to see if I can avoid surgery if possible, but certainly I will return to the doc if it becomes clear that the problem won't resolve on its own. Do you know of any tricks or tips to help the situation at home? I've heard this can be common in babies, but have any of you grown-ups experienced this? Bonus question: if you did require a procedure, how was it?
posted by tryniti to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that this is allergy/sinus related? I would touch base with an allergist and an ENT if you can, just in case.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:25 AM on August 25, 2014

One of my babies had this and three times a day for about a week I did the eye massage as recommended. I also dripped breast milk drops in the eye (antibacterial/antibiotic properties). My guess is that the drops given to you perform a similar function. After a week the blockage fully cleared and we haven't had a problem again.

Is it possible that you are introducing bacteria into the eye through make up, skin cream, wash cloths, sun screen, contacts, glasses or sunglasses? Standard first step would be to wash hands really well before touching face, stop all use of eye make up, keep all creams far away from eyes and remember that sweat can carry products into the ducts. Also consider if an allergy might be the cause. Perhaps talk to the doctor about taking an antihistamine?

I suggest doing the tear duct massage with a clean finger several times a day and seeing where you are in a week.

FWIW the treatment as I understand it is, massage, metal lance (which I think you already had done) then surgery. So surgery may be the best option for you if you get no improvement from massage.
posted by saradarlin at 10:28 AM on August 25, 2014

Twice I went to an appointment where I was shown the...tool, and twice I passed out, and never had it done. I have had a mild case of it in one eye for half my life.

The thing that cleared it up before it was "mild" (and after I had fainted and been sent on my way) was an accident. I had eye drops for it that were not doing much and then I ended up with ear drops, and early one morning dropped the (steroid-based) ear drops into my eye; it burned terribly, and it cleared up, and the doctor I was seeing said it was totally plausible that that had cleared it, and I resolved to ask about steroid eye drops if it ever flared back up.
posted by kmennie at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had surgery for it as a child. Fairly routine procedure, no issues since.
That was over 30 years ago so I doubt specifics would help you much, but as an adult, it's never been an issue since it was corrected back then.
posted by mazienh at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

moist heat helps blocked oil glands (styes); not sure if it will help blocked tear duct, but in any case I'll tell you how I get moist heat going in case you want to try, since a warm washcloth loses its heat in 5 seconds and is useless. What you do is get a sock and put rice (dry rice) in it -- or small dry beans, whatever. Knot the sock. Microwave that sock for like 20-30 seconds. Now put it inside another sock, which you have dampened with a small amount of water. Voila now you have an eye-sized moist heat application which will hold its heat for several minutes.

(When you microwave, just microwave the inner sock; you don't want to dampen it because you don't want to get the rice wet. Just wet the outer sock then put the hot rice sock in it.)

(Another thing that holds heat is a potato or hard boiled egg, but obviously those are not shelf stable; I prefer the rice thing because I can just keep it by the microwave and apply it day after day if necessary, it only takes a moment.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:35 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

My issue was not a serious as yours, but the solution that ended up working for me was a foam soap type thing that I scrub on my eye-lids (with eyes closed) every morning in the shower. This has helped my tear glands flow better, and prevented blocking. The foam is called Thera Tears Sterilid. I use it religiously every day, and if it flares up I also use a warm compress in the shower -

Good luck!
posted by flyoverme at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few follow-ups in case it matters - eye doc said it definitely isn't allergies or sinuses since it presents only in one eye and my other eye looks stellar. I have twice thrown away all my makeup and I don't wear glasses or contacts. It seems to just be a chronic blockage in the one duct. The main reason I'm hesitant to go for surgery is that it leaves a not-insignificant scar on the side of your nose, and vain is it may be, I'd rather not have a scar on my face.

Thanks for the suggestions so far - I'll definitely be trying the rice-in-sock trick and the Thera Tears (is that OTC?).
posted by tryniti at 3:39 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

TheraTears is OTC. I use it for chronic dry eye. I glop on the gel before bed (smexy!) and use the drops during the day. SteriLid is part of this product line.
posted by xyzzy at 6:49 PM on August 25, 2014

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