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Blocked Tear Ducts: Causes in Adults

Topic Overview

In adults, blocked tear ducts, which cause tears to build up in the eyes, may be caused by one or more conditions. They include:

  • Thickening of the tear duct lining. The tear ducts may become narrow due to thickening, swelling, or inflammation of their lining. This is called primary acquired nasolacrimal duct obstruction (PANDO) and is most common in women over the age of 40.
  • Nasal problems, such as:
    • An abnormal growth of tissue in the nose (nasal polyps), or tumors.
    • Excessive growth of nasal bones.
    • Misshapen bone (deviated septum) and/or cartilage (rubbery tissue that coats the ends of bones) that divides the nostrils.
  • Sinus problems, such as:
    • A severe sinus infection (acute sinusitis).
    • Complications after sinus surgery.
    • A tumor or other abnormal growth in a sinus.
  • Complications after surgery on the face, eyes, or sinuses, such as:
    • The repair of a broken bone in the face.
    • Surgery that changed the shape of the nose (nasal reconstruction).
  • A stone (lacrimal stone) that has formed within the tear duct.
  • A broken cheekbone that puts pressure on a tear duct.
  • Injury to the bones that hold and protect the eyes (orbits).
  • Infection that causes swelling and redness of the eyelid and surrounding skin (periorbital cellulitis). Infection may scar the tear duct.
  • Tumors or other abnormal tissue growths that block tear drainage.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised November 8, 2011

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