Merck Manual

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James Garrity

, MD, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science

Reviewed/Revised May 2022 | Modified Sep 2022

Dacryostenosis is obstruction or stenosis of the nasolacrimal duct, causing excess tearing.

Nasolacrimal obstruction may be congenital or acquired. One cause of congenital obstruction is inadequate development of any part of the nasolacrimal ducts. Typically, a membrane at the distal end of the nasolacrimal duct persists (valve of Hasner). There is tearing and purulent discharge; the condition may manifest as chronic conjunctivitis, usually beginning after the age of 2 weeks (most often at age 3 to 12 weeks).

There are many causes of acquired nasolacrimal duct obstruction. The cause is most often age-related stenosis of the nasolacrimal duct. Other causes include past nasal or facial bone fractures and sinus surgery, which disrupt the nasolacrimal duct; inflammatory diseases (eg, sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder resulting in noncaseating granulomas in one or more organs and tissues; etiology is unknown. The lungs and lymphatic system are most often affected, but... read more Sarcoidosis , granulomatosis with polyangiitis Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) Granulomatosis with polyangiitis is characterized by necrotizing granulomatous inflammation, small- and medium-sized vessel vasculitis, and focal necrotizing glomerulonephritis, often with crescent... read more Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) [formerly Wegener granulomatosis]); tumor (eg, maxillary and ethmoid sinus tumors); and dacryolith.

Causes of punctal or canalicular stenosis include chronic conjunctivitis (especially herpes simplex), certain types of chemotherapy, adverse reactions to eye drops (especially topical echothiophate iodide), and radiation.

Diagnosis of Dacryostenosis

  • Clinical evaluation

Diagnosis is usually based on clinical criteria. Sometimes ophthalmologists probe and irrigate the lacrimal drainage system with saline, with or without fluorescein dye. Reflux indicates stenosis.

Treatment of Dacryostenosis

  • Manual or surgical decompression

  • Treatment of underlying disorder

Congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction often resolves spontaneously by about age 6 to 9 months; before 1 year, manual compression of the lacrimal sac 4 or 5 times a day may relieve the obstruction. After age 1 year, the nasolacrimal duct may need probing, usually under general anesthesia; if obstruction is recurrent, a temporary silastic tube may be inserted.

In acquired nasolacrimal duct obstruction, the underlying disorder is treated when possible. If treatment is not possible or is ineffective, a passage between the lacrimal sac and the nasal cavity can be created surgically (dacryocystorhinostomy).

In cases of punctal or canalicular stenosis, dilation is usually curative. If canalicular stenosis is severe and bothersome, a surgical procedure (conjunctivo-dacryocystorhinostomy or C-DCR) that places a tube made of low thermal-expansion borosilicate glass (Jones tube) leading from the caruncle (the small, pink, nodule at the medial canthus) into the nasal cavity can be considered.

Key Points

  • Dacryostenosis is either congenital or acquired.

  • Symptoms include excessive tearing.

  • Reflux of saline or fluorescein dye when flushing the lacrimal drainage system confirms the diagnosis.

  • In congenital dacryostenosis, symptoms usually resolve by 9 months; manual decompression of the lacrimal sac may help.

  • In acquired dacryostenosis, treat the underlying disorder.

  • For both congenital and acquired dacryostenosis, surgery may be needed if symptoms persist.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Phospholine Iodide
AK-Fluor, Bio Glo, Fluorescite, Fluorets , Fluor-I-Strip, Fluor-I-Strip A.T., Ful-Glo, Ophthalmicflur
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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