Tears are crucial for keeping eyes healthy because they lubricate the eyes and protect the ocular surface from irritants, dust, and foreign bodies. However, an excess of tears, in the absence of an emotional trigger, can be annoying and frustrating to deal with.
In this article, we go over the more common causes of tearing disorders and their appropriate treatment options.
An introduction to tearing disorders
Epiphora, another term frequently used for excessive tearing, refers to the condition where tears run out of the eyes and down the cheeks. This can be uncomfortable and embarrassing in social situations. In general, there are two reasons for tearing or epiphora – an excessive production of tears or insufficient drainage of tears.
What causes tearing or epiphora?
1. Blockage of the tear duct
An obstruction of the tear duct is one of the most frequent causes of excessive tearing, especially in older individuals. Tears are drained from the eye by tiny channels called tear ducts. When the tear ducts are blocked, tears remain in the eye, leading to spillage out of the eyes and excessive tearing. Degenerative changes that occur with age are the main culprit for tear duct obstruction although trauma, infections, and tumours can occasionally be the cause of blockages. In some cases, blockages may be congenital ie they are present since birth.
2. Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition that may cause excessive tearing. When the tear glands do not produce enough tears to properly lubricate the eyes, the ocular surface become dry, itchy, and inflamed. This, in turn, triggers the tearing reflex and causes the tear glands to produce an excessive amount of tears that lead to overflow and tearing symptoms. Ageing, hormonal changes, and environmental variables including air conditioning and dry climates can all contribute to dry eye syndrome.
Tearing can also result from allergic responses to triggers like pollen, pet dander, or dust. Chemicals released by the body’s immune system in response to the allergen cause inflammation of the ocular surface. The ocular discomfort and itch promotes excessive tearing which overwhelm the drainage capacity.
Tearing may result from infections like conjunctivitis (pink eye) or blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids). Again, inflammation of the ocular surface leads to excessive tear production and epiphora.
5. Inturned eyelashes
Inturned eyelashes that touch and irritate the corneas also stimulate excess tear production resulting in epiphora. In children, this is usually due to epiblepharon where the skin fold adjacent to the eyelashes is prominent and ‘push’ the lashes inwards. In adults, lax eyelids could turn inwards completely and cause irritation to the corneas.
Diagnosis and treatment
An oculoplastic doctor would perform a comprehensive eye examination to diagnose tearing disorders. Tests to assess tear production and look for obstructions in the tear ducts form part of the assessment.
Treatment of tearing disorders depends on the underlying cause. In cases of excessive tearing due to tear duct blockages, treatment may involve surgery to clear the blockage and allow tears to drain away properly. Artificial tears or prescription medications to boost tear production or reduce inflammation may be used in the treatment of dry eye syndrome. Infections and allergies have to be treated with the appropriate medications. Patients may also be advised to make lifestyle modifications including avoiding dry and dusty areas and taking breaks when using digital gadgets as prolonged near work can reduce blinking and also contribute to dryness.
In conclusion, it is essential to seek expert medical assistance if you have a tearing condition in order to identify the underlying reason and receive the appropriate care. Ava Eye Clinic provides the specialist approach to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of different causes of tearing disorders, including blockages in the tear ducts, dry eye syndrome, allergies, and infections.
Besides tearing disorders, we also offer a range of procedures such as ptosis repair surgery, upper blepharoplasty in Singapore and more.
Make an appointment with us and get started on the path to healthier eyes.