What is Canaliculitis?
Canaliculitis is a disease of the lacrimal canaliculus, which is a small duct in the eyelid.¹
Often, there are no clear risk factors. In some cases, obstruction in the canaliculus by a punctal plug or other foreign object can initiate bacterial growth.¹
Symptoms of canaliculitis include:
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
Most symptoms occur in the corner of your eye closest to your nose.² Doctors often wrongly diagnose canaliculitis because the symptoms are similar to common eye conditions like allergic conjunctivitis, dry eye disease, blepharitis, and meibomian gland dysfunction.²
One thing that separates canaliculitis from these other conditions is that stones often form in the canals.¹
- Canaliculitis is a rare disease often mistaken for other eye conditions like blepharitis, dry eye disease, and conjunctivitis.
- Doctors aren’t sure what causes canaliculitis, but having punctal plugs may be a risk factor.
- Canaliculitis can be treated with warm compress, medication, and in some cases, surgery.
Canaliculitis is a rare condition and makes up only about 2-4% of all lacrimal diseases.³ The condition is even rarer in younger populations, with patients usually being over 40 years of age.
Because it is rare, many patients experience more severe symptoms or for a longer time due to underdiagnosis.²
To diagnose canaliculitis, your eye doctor will perform a physical exam of your affected eye. He or she will express and probe the canaliculus to look for discharge or drainage issues. However, if your eye is acutely and severely inflamed, they will avoid probing.¹
Your doctor may perform laboratory tests from cultures taken during your exam to look for common pathogens that may lead to canaliculitis development.¹ Additionally, if you have had punctal plugs or an obstruction is suspected, your doctor may check for potential blockages using imaging.²
You can manage canaliculitis at home with a warm compress and massage. Make a warm compress with a soft cloth and warm water, or purchase a self-heating eye mask. A warm compress and massage can help loosen and break up an obstruction.²
Your eye doctor may also prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to fight bacteria and irrigation to flush out the discharge.²
If an obstruction is present, recurrence of the condition is possible and likely. If so, your doctor may perform surgery to remove the blockage, such as a stone or punctal plug.² In some cases, your doctor will insert a temporary stent to prevent scarring.¹
Before surgery, your doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the area. After surgery, your doctor will provide prescription antibiotics and eye drops to use to prevent reinfection.²
Surgery for canaliculitis is often successful and may stop disease recurrence.²