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Canaliculitis

by James Garrity, MD

Canaliculitis is inflammation (usually caused by infection) of the canaliculus. The canaliculus is a short channel near the inner corner of the eyelid through which tears drain into the tear sac (see Figure: Where Tears Come From).

Canaliculitis may cause tearing, discharge, red eye, and mild tenderness. Redness and tenderness are most prominent at the side of the eyelid near the nose. The symptoms can resemble those of dacryocystitis.

Diagnosis

  • Symptoms and a doctor's examination

A doctor bases the diagnosis on the symptoms and examination findings.

Treatment

  • Removal of infected material and irrigation by an ophthalmologist

  • Warm compresses and eye drops

An ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the evaluation and treatment—surgical and nonsurgical—of eye disorders) can often try to remove infected material from the canaliculus and then irrigate the infected canaliculus with an antibiotic solution. People should then apply warm compresses and use antibiotic eye drops. Occasionally, the infection requires surgical treatment.

Using Eye Drops and Eye Ointments

The person receiving the drop or ointment should lean back and look up. With a clean forefinger, the lower eyelid is gently pulled down to create a pocket. Eye drops are then dropped into the pocket, not directly onto the eye. When using eye ointments, a small strip of ointment is placed in the pocket. Blinking distributes the drop or ointment over the eye.

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