Painful swelling of the lacrimal (tear) sac, into which fluid drains from the surface of the eye

  • Most common in babies and elderly people
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

Normally, tears from the eyes drain into the lacrimal sacs on either side of the nose. An infection of the lacrimal sacs is known as dacryocystitis. The condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection and most commonly results from a blockage in the nasolacrimal duct, which normally carries tears from the lacrimal sac to the nose. Nasolacrimal blockage is common in babies because the ducts are not fully developed until a year after birth. Elderly people may develop a blockage with no apparent cause, although it may be due to previous injury or inflammation.

Dacryocystitis usually starts with a red, watery eye. The area beside the nose just below the eye then becomes tender, red, and swollen. Pus may be discharged into the eye. Dacryocystitis usually affects only one eye at a time, but it can recur in either eye.

What might be done?

In adults, warm compresses and oral antibiotics may help to clear the infection. If the problem continues, surgery may be required to bypass the blocked nasolacrimal duct. In babies, gentle massage of the lacrimal sac may help to relieve the condition. Antibiotics may also be given. In some cases, the blockage may be cleared by the insertion of a tiny probe.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

Back to top