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Epiphora or Watery Eye

A person’s tears flow into their eyes through tubes from the lacrimal glands, and the tears then drain into openings called puncta, one on each of the upper and lower eyelids. After tears have drained into the puncta, the tears then drain into tubes called lacrimal ducts (or canaliculi) and then into the nasolacrimal duct that leads into the inside of the nose.

When a person has an abnormal overflow of tears from the eyes it is called epiphora. An irritant to the eyes such as sawdust or an allergy can cause an acute episode of epiphora which can be cleared up fairly quickly with minor treatment. However, chronic epiphora is usually more complex and is a condition that may require surgery to correct.

The most common causes of chronic epiphora are a blockage in the lacrimal drainage system, or an overproduction of tears. In cases where a blockage is the cause, surgery may be recommended.

Epiphora Diagnosis

Your ophthalmologist may suggest one or more tests in order to locate a blockage in the lacrimal drainage system. Treatment may also be performed at the same time as diagnosis.

Some tests used to diagnose epiphora are:

  • Dye test – a special dye is used to test if the tears drain or overflow
  • Syringing and probing – a narrow probe is inserted into the lacrimal duct; if the probe enters without resistance the blockage is likely further down the drainage system
  • X-ray – a dye is injected into a punctum to help locate the blockage

Epiphora Treatment

There are different treatments available for chronic epiphora. Your ophthalmologist will advise which treatment is most suited to your condition, taking your medical history into account. Some epiphora treatment options:

  • DCR (dacryocystorhinostomy) – if the blockage is in the nasolacrimal duct your ophthalmologist may suggest this. A DVR bypasses the blockage by creating a new passage between the lacrimal sac and the inside of the nose
  • Lester Jones tube – this is an operation to implant an artificial lacrimal duct (called a Lester Jones tube), so the tears can drain properly

Although epiphora surgery is safe and effective, as with all surgery, it does carry risks and complications. To find out more about epiphora treatment please contact our surgery today for more information on (02) 9868 2333.