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What is Dacryocystitis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dacryocystitis is an infection of the lacrimal sac, the small pouch next to the eye which produces tears. Normally, the tears flow out of the lacrimal sac and across the eye to lubricate it, and then drain through the nasolacrimal ducts. In someone with dacryocystitis, the ducts become inflamed, reducing tear production and leading to an assortment of symptoms. This condition can be quite painful, and it is important to receive treatment to reduce the risk of allowing the infection to spread or causing damage to the eye.

This condition occurs commonly in infants, because their nasolacrimal ducts are not fully formed, and in the elderly. It may be acute, meaning that it appears suddenly and without prior history, or chronic, in which case it takes the form of a constant recurring infection. Chronic dacryocystitis can indicate a more serious problem, and aggressive treatment may be needed to resolve it.

This condition usually starts with a blockage in the tear ducts, which causes a buildup of fluid in the lacrimal sac. This fluid breeds bacteria, which spread and cause infection. In extreme cases, the sac may burst, causing an open sore to appear next to the eye. If the condition is not treated, the bacteria responsible for the infection can spread unchecked, potentially even reaching the brain and causing a very serious infection.

Patients usually notice dacryocystitis in the early stages, as redness and swelling appear around the lacrimal sac. The area around the eye may also become tender, sore, and very painful to the touch. Some people experienced increased tear production, along with a discharge from the eye, while others have decreased tearing, which can lead to dryness of the eye, causing additional discomfort.

People can treat dacryocystitis at home with the use of warm compresses, especially in the early stages. A warm compress made with a clean washcloth and hot water can sometimes open up the ducts, allowing them to flow freely, and ease the infection. Compresses will also reduce pain and swelling, making the patient more comfortable.

If acute dacryocystitis does not resolve itself, or if it becomes chronic, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. The use of antibiotics may be necessary to resolve the infection, and sometimes surgical means may be used to correct the blockage. People should not attempt to lance the lacrimal sac at home, as bursting can spread the infection. If the sac does burst open, prompt medical attention is highly recommended.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon318259 — On Feb 06, 2013

I currently have acute dacryocystitis on my right eye. I have seen my GP twice and have finished two courses of antibiotics, but still it keeps growing. I have been to A&E because I was in so much pain and feel unwell and was referred to an acute eye clinic. They in turn have referred me to a surgeon and I'm currently having to wait for him to contact me. Even when he does I'll have to wait for the surgery. In the meantime, it is continuing to grow so quickly I can feel it getting bigger, and I am left in pain with a huge monstrosity on my face.

It frustrates me that the process is taking so long. I am left in limbo. It won't stop growing and it's affecting my whole life. I can't drive, and I can't even watch TV properly because it hurts to wear my glasses and so I can't see clearly. I've been affected by the infection and have felt generally unwell for over a month. And though it sounds vain, I don't even bother with makeup anymore because my face upsets me and everyone stares at it and I feel so self-conscious. I haven't been out socially since it happened.

I think this affects people in ways that other people don't realize and I do think that the medical staff needs to treat it with more urgency.

Furthermore, there are no other routes I can think of to speed up the process as I was told by A&E that there was nothing they could do. So I am left to wait. It has gotten so big now that it feels like it might pop. I work in a hospital as a nurse and the risk of infection control is being discussed and I might need to soon take time off, which I can't afford to.

If there is anything someone might be able to suggest, I would appreciate it so much. I feel like I'm going through a really tough time and I'm being treated like it's just vanity and that it can wait.

By wavy58 — On Oct 30, 2011

I have always had problems with allergies, both in the form of watering eyes and dry eyes. I know how irritating it can be, but I know that neither is as bad as dacryocystitis.

I have never had this condition, but I have seen photos of people with it. Their eyes were so puffy, and some of them looked like they had been punched. The skin around the swollen area looked all yellow, red, and purple.

Because I've never had pus pockets or pain around my eyes, I know that my issues were just allergy related. If I were to develop swelling and soreness, I would definitely have it checked out quickly, because a burst lacrimal sac sounds like serious business.

By seag47 — On Oct 29, 2011

@lighth0se33 – So, you had the infection in both eyes? Wow, I imagine that was very painful! I had it in just one eye, and that was bad enough.

My doctor said he wanted to check for a blockage after I finished my antibiotics and the infection was gone. He said that if he found one, he would need to do surgery.

He did find a blockage, so he had to make a drain surgically for my tears so that the condition wouldn't return. That was five years ago, and I haven't had any problems since.

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 29, 2011

When I had dacryocystitis, I thought it was just severe allergies for awhile. My eyes were watering constantly, and they were starting to look red and puffy. I thought it was because I had just mowed and stirred up pollen.

The next day, the area around my eye started to hurt. It was very tender to the touch.

I went to my doctor, and he pressed gently on the area. Pus came out, so he knew I had an infection. He had to cut the pus pocket open to drain it. I also got a couple of week's worth of antibiotics.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 28, 2011

My dad had dacryocystitis. His tear production stopped altogether, and his eye felt scratchy. It looked really red and inflamed, because it wasn't getting its regular lubrication.

He kept soaking a washcloth in warm water and placing it over his eye. This helped relieve that scratchy feeling, because the warmth provided a tiny amount of humidity. He also used artificial tears frequently.

The infection was so bothersome that he went to his eye doctor. He got antibiotics, and his infection cleared up in a few days. He also got some medicated eye drops to help soothe his irritated eye.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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