While most of us visit the dentist at least yearly in order to undergo a professional cleaning, it’s all too common to put off visiting the optometrist. Glasses and contact lenses are expensive, insurance is often shaky in terms of optics and the entire process of dilation and examination can be frustrating. Does that sound about right?
It’s surprising to some that run-of-the-mill optometrists often do much more than prescribe corrective lenses. They are often forced to deal with frightening eye injuries and painful infections, such as dacryocystitis.
Dacryocystitis is best defined as inflammation and infection of the lacrimal sac, known more commonly as the tear sac. The tear sac is a tiny chamber which tears eventually drain into. When the tear sac becomes infected due to exposure to bacteria, improper drainage occurs, which may result in severe swelling and even the formation of an abscess.
The infection often appears very suddenly. This is typically caused by the acute form of dacryocystitis. Chronic infection also occurs and is especially common in toddlers and infants, as their tear sacs are yet to fully develop.
Causes of Dacryocystitis
While this painful condition sometimes appears with no apparent cause, first-time acute sufferers can usually trace the infection back to one of the following:
Inflammation of the nasal passages through illness, such as infection or even a simple cold
Recent eye infection
Recent diagnosis of a blocked tear duct
Various conditions relating to age can also cause changes in the function of parts of the eye, sometimes resulting in different forms of infection.
Symptoms of Dacryocystitis
It is important for parents of young children prone to eye infections to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of dacryocystitis, as well as adults suspecting the presence of a form of infection. Commonly experienced symptoms include:
Chronic running of the eye
Noticeable swelling of the eye, especially in the inner corner
Pus and other forms of discharge originating in the corner of the eye
Pain and tenderness in the eye
Diagnosis and Treatment of Dacryocystitis
Unfortunately, treatment of dacryocystitis consists of more than the application of over-the-counter eye drops. The suspicion of this type of infection should be addressed by an eye care professional, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Treatment of dacryocystitis varies based upon many factors, including severity of the infection, pain levels, overall health and age. Common treatment for acute forms of the infection include:
Oral prescription antibiotics
Prescription antibiotic eye drops
Prescription antibiotic topical ointments
Use of warm compresses to relieve pressure and encourage drainage
Treatment for particularly bothersome chronic forms of dacryocystitis may include:
Surgical irrigation of the tear sac
Complete removal of the tear sac
If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from dacryocystitis or another eye infection, contact your family physician for a referral to a local optometrist immediately.