Healthy eyes need to be moist, so the lacrimal gland — a specialised gland located under the outer one-third of the upper eyelid — makes tears. Each time you blink, the eyelid spreads the tears over the surface of the eye and pumps excess tears into a duct that drains the tears into your nose. That is why your nose runs when you cry.
Watery eye or watering eye, where the patient produces excessive tears or tears flow down the cheek when they are not supposed to, is known as epiphora.
It is very rare not to be able to overcome the problem of a watery eye caused by a blockage of the tear drainage pathway. Depending on the nature of the obstruction, the chance of success varies from 80 to 95 per cent. Most patients are completely free from watering or only experience watering in specific situations such as cold wind.
Watery eye treatment should be covered by health insurance — you will need to check with your insurance company.
There are many possible reasons for watery eyes. Among them are:
Treatment depends on the cause of watery eyes. Occasionally, a special form of X-ray examination of the tear drainage pathway (a dacryocystogram) or a test using a radiolabelled tracer (dacryoscintillography or lacrimal scintigraphy) is needed during assessment.
Unblocking the tear duct is called dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) and is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic. In selected cases, when patients are unfit for general anaesthesia, it can be performed under local anaesthesia with intravenous sedation by an anaesthetist.
The surgery creates a new pathway between the lacrimal sac and the inside of the nose by removing a thin bone between them. Mr Malhotra may insert small silicone tubes temporarily to keep the new tear duct open while healing takes place. A DCR has traditionally been performed through a small skin incision at the side of the nose (external DCR). Nowadays, it is preferable to carry this out through the nose (endonasally).
Endonasal DCR avoids a skin incision and the results are pretty much equal to external DCR. Mr Malhotra has designed specific pieces of equipment for this operation, the Malhotra endonasal DCR punch and the Malhotra endonasal nibbler.
Endonasal DCR may not be a suitable procedure if the obstruction is not in an appropriate location or there is a problem within the nose. Mr Malhotra carries out both external and endonasal DCRs and will recommend the best approach.
DCR removes the risk of an infection in the tear sac, known as dacryocystitis, This can develop when tears stagnate in the tear sac because of a blockage of the nasolacrimal duct. It is a painful condition that requires antibiotic tablets and sometimes injections and drainage of the tear sac. After DCR surgery, tears can no longer stagnate so the risk of infection of the sac is removed.
If the nasal passage is too narrow to allow Mr Malhotra safely to carry out the procedure through an endonasal approach, he may carry out a small septoplasty to provide more space and access within your nasal passage.
A septoplasty straightens the partition between the two nasal passages (the nasal septum). Ideally, the septum should run down the centre of the nose. When it deviates into one of the cavities, it narrows that cavity and impedes airflow.
Because the deviation is a result of a cartilage and/or bone surplus, the procedure usually involves removing a portion of any of these tissues. Under general or local anesthesia, Mr Malhotra works through the nostrils, making an incision in the lining of the septum to reach the cartilage targeted in the operation.
Mr Malhotra takes care to preserve an L-shaped strut of cartilage of at least 1cm along the tip of the nose to maintain structural support and the overall shape and appearance of the nose. The procedure may increase your potential for a small nose bleed after surgery but only for the first day or so.
You are advised to carry out saline irrigations of the nasal passage and use an antibiotic ointment on the lining of the septum. You can blow your nose normally after a week.
This is an artificial tear duct made of Pyrex glass that remains in place permanently. This operation is usually performed under general anaesthesia, although it can be performed under local anaesthesia with intravenous sedation by an anaesthetist for patients unfit for general anaesthesia.
A Jones tube can be used when DCR surgery has failed and for patients who have a blockage of the duct between the eye socket and nose caused by scars, recurrent infections or ageing.
A minor probing of the tear duct will usually fix matters if a baby is born with the condition and it does not heal itself without intervention. More specialist surgery may be needed if this is not successful.
This can help when pump failure has taken place. The operation is usually performed under local anaesthetic.
For patients suffering from outward turning of the lower eyelid (ectropion).
These prevent drying of the eyes that leads to excessive production of real tears. There are a variety of artificial tear preparations available. Some patients prefer one over another for their own reasons, so it is a good idea to try different preparations.
If the tears need to be used more frequently than four times a day it is better to choose a preparation that is free of preservatives. Mr Malhotra can advise which preparations to try and often carries out a lubricant trial when identifying the main cause for a watery eye.
If artificial tears do not adequately relieve the discomfort of dry eyes, closing the openings of the tear drainage system can help to keep more moisture on the eye, making it feel less sore and gritty.
The closure can be performed temporarily, with the insertion of silicone plugs, or more permanently, with surgery. In either case, the procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic. In extreme cases, other eyelid procedures may be required to control the drying.