If you are able to see well and not have issues affecting the eye function or vision, you should consider yourself lucky as there are many people who have difficulty or are unable to see well. The gift of eyesight is often something taken for granted until a person’s eye is affected by diseases or health conditions. One of the parts known as the canaliculi can also be affected. When it is affected, medicine may be needed to treat the issue.

What is canaliculi in the eye? Canaliculi is the short channel located near the inner corner of the eyelid. This is where the tears drain into the tear sac. Do you know what canaliculi are in general? Canaliculi according to the Oxford dictionary is the small channel or canal. This means that it describes the very small passage inside the body where fluid can flow along. Thus, if you search for “canaliculi ” without including the word “eye”, you will find that there are canaliculi in bone and liver.

Canaliculi in the eye is associated with the lacrimal canaliculi. Lacrimal canaliculi is the small drainage that collects tears from each eyelid. It can be found close to the inner corner of the eyelid. The lacrimal canaliculi can be a superior duct which are the smaller and shorter two that first ascends and bends downward into the lacrimal sac.  At first descent, the lacrimal canaliculi may also be an inferior duct that runs horizontally to the lacrimal sac. The nasolacrimal sac is at the upper side of the nasolacrimal tube. The nasolacrimal duct drains tears from the eye to the lacrimal sac and into the nasal cavity.

Since we have been mentioning about tears, you might want to know a bit more about the tears themselves. Oil, water and mucus are what makes the tear. The oil layer reduces evaporation of the eye tears by sealing the tear film, the water layer lubricates the eyes and the mucus layer helps to spread tears evenly providing maximum eye lubrication.  The lacrimal glands in the eye are responsible for producing tears. This fluid of tears moves across the eyes as humans blink. The tear drainage system is the one where the excess fluid drains into the nose via the tear ducts. Tears are closely related with the canaliculi of the eyes.

One of the diseases that affect the canaliculi of the eyes is canaliculitis. Canaliculitis is the inflammation to the canaliculus. Canaliculus is the singular form of canaliculi. Each eye will have 2 canaliculi which are in the upper eyelid and the lower eyelid. Canaliculitis is typically caused by infection, most often bacterial infection that affects the canaliculus. This condition is most commonly seen in middle-aged and elderly patients even though there are actually cases showing children as young as 5 years old experiencing canaliculitis. Symptoms and signs of canaliculitis are tearing of the eyes which is seen as watery eyes, red eye and eye discharge. Symptoms often are found in one side of the eye. Due to the fact that this condition may be confused with dacryocystitis, it is best for patients to get checked by a doctor. Dacrocystitis is the inflammatory condition affecting the lacrimal sac caused by the obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct.  Symptoms may appear the same for canaliculitis and dacryocystitis but differences lie in the red and swollen punctum in canaliculitis. Punctum is the small opening of the surface of the eyelid where it leads to the tear drainage canal. Treatment for canaliculitis is antibiotics and warm compress over the affected sites. Minor surgery may be needed to remove blockage from the canaliculus. This surgery is known as canaliculotomy. Medical therapy is said to be effective when patients are presented early. Another treatment known as intracanalicular irrigation with antibiotics on top of topical antibiotics may be used to treat patients.

The best way to avoid canaliculitis is to take preventative measures. Since canaliculitis is mostly caused by infection, the best way to avoid canaliculitis is to take steps on reducing the chances for the infection. This includes avoiding touching the eyes, ensuring contact lenses are clean or changed before using and to dispose of eye makeup that is expired or have been used for months. It is best to throw away eye makeup if a patient has an eye infection after using the makeup. Patients are advised to practise good hand hygiene by ensuring hands are clean. This is because many people may not realise, they touch their eyes accidentally or rubbing their eyes with their hands.

In essence, canaliculi of the eyes are part of the structure that plays a role in the tear drainage system. Canaliculitis is one of the common diseases that can affect the canaliculi of the eyes. Canaliculitis may have symptoms resembling many other eye conditions, especially symptoms of red eye and eye discharge. It is best for patients to get checked by doctors if their red eye and eye discharge does not seem to go away. Treatment for canaliculitis initially is the antibiotic but surgery is often needed in severe cases.