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.