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What Is Epiphora?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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When excess tears are unable to drain properly, they will often drip down the face. This condition is known as epiphora, and although it can occur in humans and other animals, it is more commonly seen in dogs. Brownish colored tear tracks on the face are typically one of the most common symptoms of this condition. These tear stains can be removed, but it is also important to treat the underlying cause of this condition. Some common causes of epiphora include blocked tear ducts or eye infections.

Natural tears are necessary for lubricating the eyes. They help the eyelids glide over the eyeballs, and they also help wash dirt and other debris out of the eyes. Normally, extra tears drain into the nasal passages through the nasolacrimal ducts, which are tiny tubes located in the corners of the eyes near the nose.

Epiphora occurs when tears are unable to drain into the nasal passages. Instead, they will overflow out of the eyes and run down the cheeks. Depending on the cause, this can occur in one or both of the eyes. It is also referred to as watering eye or tearing.

Epiphora can occur in humans, but it is generally more apt to occur in domestic animals, particularly dogs. Tear stains are typically the most common symptom of epiphora in dogs. These stains can be seen under the inner corners of the eyes and down the sides of the face.

Tear stains caused by epiphora are typically brown or rust colored. This color is not caused by the tears themselves, but from micro-organisms that grow in this area. The dampness and warmth caused by the overflowing tears are ideal conditions for a certain type of yeast to grow.

Other symptoms of epiphora may also be present as well. For example, some dogs may have a pus-like discharge from the eyes. This may even dry and become crusty. Some dogs may also have red, irritated eyes.

Removing tear stains caused by this condition can be somewhat difficult. Some dog owners choose to dab hydrogen peroxide on the eyes and tear stains. This can not only remove the stain, but it can also kill harmful micro-organisms that may infect the area. Although it may help remove the staining, this method is not considered to be a treatment for this condition.

Epiphora treatment will typically depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Generally, the most common cause of epiphora is blocked nasolacrimal ducts. These ducts can become blocked by an infection or tiny foreign particles. Epiphora can also be caused by excessive tear production.

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