(Infected Tear Duct)

How to Say It: Dak-re-o-sis-ti-tis


Dacryocystitis is swelling and irritation of the lacrimal sac. This sac starts near the inner corner of the eye and runs along the side of the nose. Tears move through tear ducts into this sac. They are then passed out into the nasal passages.


This problem is caused by a blocked tear duct. Tears become trapped in the sac and form a pool. Bacteria can then begin to grow in the tear pool and create an infection. Both the trapped tears and infection will cause swelling and irritation.

Blocked Tear Duct

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Risk Factors

This problem is most common in infants with blocked tear ducts. Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Swelling and infection in the area from things like conjunctivitis or sinusitis
  • Problems with the tear duct structure, such as narrowing of ducts
  • Injury to the eye or surrounding tissue


Problems may be:

  • Redness and tenderness on the side of the nose near the inner corner of the eye
  • Swelling or a bump on the side of the nose
  • Fever
  • Mucus or pus in the corner of the eye
  • Crusty eyelids or eyelashes after sleep


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. An eye exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Fluid samples may be taken from the eye or sac. The fluid will be checked for bacteria. This will help determine which antibiotic may work best.


For a tear duct blockage without signs of infection, the doctor may advise:

  • Warm compresses over the area
  • Gentle massage of the duct to promote draining

Antibiotics may be needed to treat an infection caused by bacteria.

The cause of the tear duct blockage may need to be treated. This may be done with:

  • A balloon procedure to open narrow tear ducts
  • Surgery to open or create a new drainage path for tears


There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation


Canadian Association of Optometrists


Dacryocystitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/eyelid-and-lacrimal-disorders/dacryocystitis. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Dacryocystitis (acute). The College of Optometrists website. Available at: https://www.college-optometrists.org/guidance/clinical-management-guidelines/dacryocystitis-acute-.html. Accessed August 3, 2021.
Nasolacrimal duct obstruction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nasolacrimal-duct-obstruction-15. Accessed August 3, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 8/3/2021

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