eye

A 56-year-old male presented to the Emergency Department with a chief complaint of painful eyelid swelling and itching upon waking up. He reported no history of trauma or fever. He had one similar episode in the past which was self-limiting. The patient denied vision loss, diplopia, pain with extraocular movement, and ophthalmoplegia.

Vitals: T 37.4°C; BP 129/73; HR 91; RR 16

General: A/O x 3; well nourished in NAD

HEENT:  Extraocular movements intact in both eyes. Pupils are equal, round, and reactive to light and accommodation bilaterally. Visual Acuity: OD 20/20, OS 20/25.

Left eye: Diffuse swelling and erythema to the left upper and medial lower eyelids with minimal purulent discharge from the lacrimal puncta. Tenderness localized to the medial canthal region.

Right eye: Normal.

Complete blood count (CBC): within normal limits

Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): within normal limits

Acute dacryocystitis. Dacryocystitis is defined by inflammation or infection of the nasolacrimal sac. Whether acute or chronic, acquired or congenital, inflammation is caused by obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct usually from infection, trauma, or a space-occupying lesion. The most common infectious organisms are Staphylococcus and beta-hemolytic streptococcus species. The classic clinical presentation is a sudden onset of swelling, erythema, and tenderness in the medial part of the orbit. Conjunctival injection and swelling around the entire orbit can suggest the development of preseptal cellulitis. Complications of dacryocystitis include orbital abscess, orbital cellulitis, vision loss, ophthalmoplegia, and eyelid necrosis. The differential diagnosis includes dacryoadenitis, lacrimal sac or sinonasal tumor, ethmoid sinusitis, and infected sebaceous or dermoid cyst.

Treatment for dacryocystitis depends on the severity and clinical manifestations of the disease. In mild cases, symptoms will resolve with the application of warm compresses, lacrimal sac massage (Crigler technique), and topical antibiotics if indicated. Severe cases may require oral or parenteral antibiotics and surgical decompression.

Take-Home Points

  • Dacryocystitis is inflammation of the medial nasolacrimal sac preceded by obstruction and may be acute or chronic, congenital or acquired.
  • Dacryocystitis exhibits a bimodal age distribution. The common congenital form is found in infancy, and in adulthood at age of 40 years older.
  • Dacryocystitis is occasionally mistaken for dacryoadenitis (inflammation of the nasolacrimal gland with superolateral eyelid edema). Far less common, dacryoadenitis is associated with systemic inflammatory conditions such as malignancy, Sjogren syndrome, sarcoidosis, Crohn’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases.
  • Proper recognition and prompt treatment may prevent serious complications including orbital cellulitis, vision loss, and sepsis.

  • Alsalamah AK, Alkatan HM, Al-Faky YH. Acute dacryocystitis complicated by orbital cellulitis and loss of vision: A case report and review of the literature. Int J Surg Case Rep. 2018;50:130-134. doi: 10.1016/j.ijscr.2018.07.045. Epub 2018 Aug 9. PMID: 30118963; PMCID: PMC6098209.
  • Carlisle RT, Digiovanni J. Differential Diagnosis of the Swollen Red Eyelid. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Jul 15;92(2):106-12. PMID: 26176369.

Ifeoluwa Akisanya

Ifeoluwa Akisanya

Medical Student
University of South Alabama College of Medicine
Ifeoluwa Akisanya

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Michael Sternberg, MD

Michael Sternberg, MD

Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of South Alabama
Michael Sternberg, MD

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