Introducing: Ask a Doctor
At UTHSC ENT, we understand that patients need clear, helpful answers to their questions. We also know that a flood of new information can be overwhelming.
That’s why our department’s introducing Ask a Doctor: an ongoing series of posts that tackle Frequently Asked Questions about common issues. We hope these articles give you a better understanding of your situation and an easy path to treatment.
Today, we highlight an issue that many people experience but few know the name of: epiphora.
Prepared by: Andrew Yoches
Reviewed by: Dr. Sanjeet Rangarajan
What is epiphora?
Simply put: epiphora is excessive tearing (crying) of the eyes. It is a very common issue, and most cases will resolve on their own.
You can try to prevent epiphora by maintaining proper eye hygiene. Frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes can help to avoid epiphora but will not prevent it.
Epiphora is not a serious condition and can be treated with time or simple procedures. Surgery is rarely required.
What are its causes and symptoms?
Epiphora can be caused by a variety of underlying issues. The most common cause is lacrimal obstruction–i.e., blockage of the tear ducts. Another cause is dry eye: inflammation of the eye or lacrimal duct, which can cause excessive generation of tears.
More causes include eyelid malposition, reflex tearing, and more.
Symptoms of epiphora include:
-Excessive watery eyes similar to crying
Treatments at home:
1) Saline Solution: using a saline solution can help to cleanse the eye of whatever may be causing irritation or inflammation.
2) Massage: a gentle massage could help to reopen the tear ducts.
3) Cold or hot compress: cold can decrease inflammation, hot can promote cleanliness.
When should I see a doctor?
If your symptoms persist, a visit to the doctor could be warranted. Prolonged redness, excessive watering, puss or crust growth around the eye are possible worse symptoms of epiphora that mean you should see the doctor soon.
Delaying a doctor’s visit could cause negative long-term effects to your overall eye health.
More treatment options:
Watchful waiting is a common treatment for epiphora. This requires patience and trust in the physician that the issue will most likely heal on its own. In general, avoiding a procedure means avoiding further complications.
However, if any of the simple solutions listed above do not work, your physician may be able to help. Treatment options are specific to the underlying cause:
For allergies, there are many treatment options such as decongestants, antihistamines, or eye drops. For infections, the physician may prescribe specific antibiotics or ointments. For obstruction, physicians may use a simple probe, a balloon, or two surgical procedures, DCR or CDCR, to connect the lacrimal duct to nose (90% success rate with no scars). Additionally, botox is a new method used to relax the muscles and open the tear ducts.
Each of these procedures aim to open the tear’s pathway back into the ducts rather than onto your cheek.
How can our Dream Team help?
UTHSC ENT’s Dream Team provides world class treatment in your hometown, and we’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to talk to a specialist about issues with your tear ducts, please give us a call.