Persistent Watery Eyes? You Could Have Blocked Or Infected Tear Ducts

Posted on: 24 February 2015

If your eyes are constantly watery, it means that you have too many tears draining from your eyes. While tears have an important job, which is keeping the eyes moist and washing away particles in the eyes, too many leads to persistent tearing. Your eyes are constantly making tears, and the excess usually exits the eye through your tear ducts, a small hole in the corner of each eye. If these ducts are infection or blocked, it can prevent tears from draining and cause your watery eyes.

What Causes Blocked Or Infected Tear Ducts?

A blockage of your tears ducts can occur due to an inherited condition or a bacterial infection. While these are two common causes, there are others:

  • Sinus infection
  • Nasal infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Eye injury
  • Pink eye infection
  • Fracture of bones in the nose

Your risk of developing blocked tear ducts is higher if other members of your family have or had them. Inherited blocked tear ducts most often occur in infants within the first few months of life. Your risk also increases if you've had a recent bacterial infection and did not get prompt medical attention. Infection of tear ducts and blockage caused by infection can occur at any age. 

What Are The Symptoms Blocked Tear Ducts?

The symptoms of clogged tears ducts are the same in both infection or blockage. Some symptoms you might have include the following:

  • Persistent watering that may occur in one or both eyes
  • Redness in the white area of the affected eye
  • Pain, swelling, and/or redness under the affected eye
  • Swollen, red tear ducts
  • Mucus or pus leaking from the eye 

If you do have an infected tear duct, you can spread the germ causing the infection to others. You need to take precautions, such as washing your hands often. 

How Are Blocked Or Infected Tear Ducts Treated?

Infected tear ducts are often treated with antibiotics and can be cured within a couple of weeks. If you don't seek proper treatment, the infection can spread to other parts of the eye, including the cornea, or cause permanent scaring of the tear duct. Tear duct obstruction may require dilation of the affected ducts or surgery. Without treatment, an obstruction can lead to an infection. 

Obstruction is curable with dilation and probing to open the tear duct. Surgery is required if an infection or blockage does not respond to simpler treatment. An ophthalmologist usually performs the procedure in a hospital or outpatient facility. While  you are under general anesthesia, the surgeon expands the tear duct and irrigates it until fluid can freely flow through it. This is fairly simple procedure, so bleeding should not be a problem and no stitches or sutures are needed. The majority of patients heal without complications within a couple of weeks. 

If you have persistent watery eyes, you should schedule an eye exam with your optometrist. Your can discuss your symptoms with him or her and have a thorough eye exam to determine if your watery eyes are due to blocked or infected tear ducts.