Epiphora (Excessive Eye Tearing)

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Chronic eye tearing, also known as epiphora, is a condition where tears don’t drain properly, leading to an overflow and involuntary discharge of tears. While epiphora can be caused by a wide variety of issues, epiphora caused by obstruction of the tear ducts can either be primary, meaning with unknown causes, or can be acquired from infection, inflammation, or trauma from facial fractures or facial surgery.

Epiphora – Chronic Eye Tearing

Anatomy drawing showing the functioning of lacrimal glands
Lacrimal Glands Functioning

Your eye has a sophisticated system of ducts and sacs that lead to proper drainage of tears from the eye into the nose. The lacrimal glad produces tears and is located in the outer corner of your eyes. Tears then travel to small openings on the inner corners of your eyelids, where they drain into a series of tubes called the canaliculus. The canaliculus drain into a structure called the lacrimal sac, which is situated by the nose. The lacrimal sac leads to the lacrimal duct, which has a direct connection to the nasal cavity. Most obstructions occur within the lacrimal sac and duct. These lead to excessive tearing and epiphora.

Diagnosing Epiphora

Our surgeons diagnose epiphora by inserting a probe into a drainage channel by the eye to check for blockage. During the diagnosis, the patient is under anesthesia. Alternatively, another way to diagnose epiphora is through the injection of a liquid dye into the tear duct, which we monitor on an x-ray. We use this method to find blockages that might cause epiphora. Another way we check for blockage is by injecting a fluid into the tear duct to see if it funnels through the nose.

Epiphora Treatment

One surgical treatment for excessive tearing is DCR, a sophisticated surgical procedure used to create proper drainage of tears. There are two methods to perform it. In an external DCR, an incision is made between the eye of the nose, the lacrimal sac is found, and an opening to the lacrimal sac is created so tears can drain into the nasal cavity, completely bypassing an obstructed lacrimal duct. For many surgeons and patients, endoscopic DCR is the preferred epiphora treatment because it’s less invasive, has a better success rate, and has less visible scarring.In an endoscopic DCR, an ophthalmologist or otorhinolaryngologist administers a decongestant and inserts anesthesia soaked gauze into the nose to numb the area and constrict blood vessels. An endoscope is inserted into the nose to help with visualization, while bone is removed from over the lacrimal sac to create an opening. This lets tears drain directly into the nasal cavity, bypassing the duct and reducing epiphora.

Causes of Epiphora (Eye Tearing)


Infective conjunctivitis, an infection of the tissue that covers the front of the eye, can cause irritation that can lead to epiphora.


Infections are a common cause of epiphora, and recurring infections in the lacrimal sac is called dacryocystitis. This can be treated by flushing the infection out of the sac and into the nasolacrimal duct. It can also be treated with a regimen of antibiotics, and if this proves ineffective, a procedure called dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) might be needed to to drain the infection out.


This is actually a fairly common eye condition where the eyelashes start to grow inwards into the eyelid, causing irritation, leading to epiphora. Trichiasis can be treated by an ophthalmologist who can surgically remove any inward-growing eyelashes.


This condition is when the eyelids start to turn outward, which causes the eyelashes and skin to rub against other, causing irritation that leads to excessive tearing. In this case, an ophthalmologist can treat ectropion by surgically tightening the tendon that holds the eyelid in place.

Quality Patient Care

My Houston Surgeons specializes in sinus and nasal issues, and is led by fellowship-trained sinus and nasal specialists. For such delicate issues like epiphora, it’s important to trust surgeons as skilled and experienced as the ones at MHS, who are also board-certified and board-eligible by the American Board of Otolaryngology. Contact MHS now, for a consultation on treating excessive tearing and epiphora.

The Doctors at My Houston Surgeons have either authored or reviewed and approved this content. Page last updated:


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