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 Eyelid and Tearing Disorders: 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.
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.
Last full review/revision July 2012 by James Garrity, MD