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The lacrimal gland is a small organ in the human eye that secretes the watery portion of the tear film (lacrimal fluid).
These help clean, lubricate, nourish, and maintain eye health.1 When secreted in high amounts, it results in excessive tearing.
The lacrimal gland is located above the eyeball towards the upper, outer corner of the eye socket.
Both eyes have one lacrimal gland measuring about 2 cm long. It’s made up of two parts:
The lacrimal gland has about 12 main drainage ducts. These lacrimal ducts run from the orbital part of the gland through the levator palpebrae superioris aponeurosis. They open at the superior conjunctival fornix, releasing the fluid into the eye surface.2 The blinking process helps spread the fluid on the eye surface.
While circulating in the eye, the lacrimal fluid accumulates in the lacrimal lake at the medial canthal region, after which it drains into the lacrimal sac. From the lacrimal sac, the fluid drains into the nasal cavity via the nasolacrimal duct system.
In addition to the main lacrimal gland, accessory lacrimal glands such as glands of Krause and Wolfring also exist.3 They're much smaller than the lacrimal gland but very similar in structure. They account for about 10% of the total lacrimal secretion. The upper eyelid has more accessory lacrimal glands than the lower eyelid.
The conditions affecting the lacrimal gland often result from inflammation. They include:
Dacryoadenitis refers to the inflammation of the lacrimal gland.4 The inflammation can be acute or chronic and can affect one or both eyes. Acute dacryoadenitis is more common among children and young adults.5
Chronic dacryoadenitis is rare. Research shows that the condition is more common among females than males. This is because females are at a higher risk of systemic autoimmune diseases.
Acute dacryoadenitis is caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi (rare).
Chronic dacryoadenitis results from noninfectious inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis, thyroid eye disease, Sjogren syndrome, Wegener's granulomatosis, and orbital pseudotumor.
In some cases, dacryoadenitis can be idiopathic, meaning it has no known cause.
Treatment for dacryoadenitis will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. It might include:
A chalazion is a swollen lump on an eyelid. It usually results from clogged meibomian glands. These are glands lining the eyelid margin that produce oil that prevents tears from drying out.
The meibomian glands produce oil that mixes with tears to keep the eye moist. When the oil is too thick, it can clog up the passage. Accumulation of this oil in the clogged gland leads to chalazion formation.
Some underlying inflammatory conditions might also cause chalazia. These include:
A chalazion usually goes away on its own. However, some home remedies can help manage the healing process. These include:
If a chalazion persists, your eye doctor might recommend fluid drainage through a small incision. They might also inject steroids to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Doctors do not recommend squeezing or popping it, as this can cause eye injury.
Epiphora is a condition where excess tears flow out of the eyes and down the face for no apparent reason. This condition can develop at any age, but it's most common among children under 12 years and adults over 60 years.7 Epiphora can affect one or both eyes.
In most cases, watery eyes result from an overproduction of the lacrimal fluid or poor drainage due to blocked tear ducts. Other causes include:
Most people with watery eyes recover without treatment. The best type of treatment will depend on the cause. Options include:
Dry eyes result from low levels of lacrimal fluid (tears) in the eyes. This causes a lack of lubrication when blinking, which can be uncomfortable.
According to research, one in five adults has dry eyes. This condition is more common among older people.8 It affects more females than males.
Dry eyes result from low tear production, poor drainage, or poor-quality tears.
Age, gender, certain medical conditions such as blepharitis, and certain medications such as decongestants and antidepressants can affect the rate of tear production or drainage.
Environmental conditions such as wind, smoke, or dry weather can also increase the rate of tear evaporation, thus causing dryness in the eyes.
Tears are made up of oil, water, and mucus layers. If any of the three layers is dysfunctional or evaporates too quickly, dry eye symptoms can develop. Other causes include:
Dry eyes can be chronic. Treatments are available to keep dry eyes comfortable and healthy.
Sarcoidosis can affect any body part and is one of the leading causes of inflammatory eye disease. Systemic (or whole-body) sarcoidosis is more likely to affect the eye. When parts of the eye, such as the lacrimal gland, are affected, it's called ocular sarcoidosis.9
This condition may cause several eyelid abnormalities, including:
The cause of ocular sarcoidosis is unknown. Some experts, however, associate it with an abnormal immune response.10
Studies have also linked it to infectious agents, certain chemicals, and environmental allergens. Others have linked it to genetics, meaning parents can pass it down to their children.11
There's no cure for ocular sarcoidosis. However, various therapies can manage the condition. They include:12
The lacrimal gland is a small organ in the human eye. It is located above the eyeball towards the upper outer corner of the eye socket.
It secretes the watery portion of the tears (lacrimal fluid). The lacrimal fluid cleans, lubricates, and nourishes the eyes. When secreted in high amounts, it results in tearing.
The lacrimal gland is divided into the orbital lobe (larger) and the palpebral lobe (smaller). The orbital lobe is located along the lateral margin of the levator palpebrae superioris muscle, whereas the palpebral lobe is located on the inner surface of the eyelid.
The lacrimal gland conditions include:
An eye doctor can diagnose the condition and recommend the appropriate treatment based on the cause and severity of the condition.
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