dacrocystitis from a blocked tear duct (bonus personal update below the cut)

One of the most popular posts on this website continues to be about LASIK vision correction, so I think many of my followers (particularly the librarians who still read this blog) have an interest in ocular health. For the past 18 months, I have had a peculiar and recurring problem with a tear duct, and the only information I found by googling my symptoms was information about how these symptoms could be because of a tumor. So, if you are an adult suffering from a recurring blocked tear duct, and are pretty sure you don’t have a tumor, read on for my experiences..

In late 2019, my right tear eye suddenly started tearing excessively. I was perplexed, and saw an opthamologist immediately. He told me that I was about to get sick, and that my sinuses were inflamed and this was what was blocking my tear duct. Sure enough, a few days later, I had a bad flu-like illness, and the blockage resolved. I thought that was the end of the matter, until the blockage began recurring. I then saw an ENT who referred me for imaging that revealed some fluid within my maxillary sinus. It was a busy time in my life, so I forgot to circle back for an antibiotic prescription, but I did have tons of allergy testing in the hopes there might be an environmental trigger. The allergy tests revealed nothing. Sinus flushes with over-the-counter items like Flonase and saline sprays mostly resolved the issue, but I continued to experience minor flareups that occasionally started before I became ill with colds and the like, but that mostly seemed to be random. The issue has been nearly exclusively with my right eye. Occasionally, this will happen when I cannot breathe through my right nostril even though it does not feel congested. This often seems to correspond with a feeling of pressure in the sinus below my right eye (the right maxillary sinus).

This spring, my tear duct issue started again, but this time, things continued to get worse. I suspected that I was developing pinkeye from my nasal passages draining into my eyeball, so I called another opthamalogist after a chemical cauterization at my ENT was unsuccessful (and perhaps worsened the issue).  I was diagnosed with dacrocystitis: an infection of the lacrymal sac. This was absolutely disgusting, but fortunately has resolved with antibiotic drops and a nightly ointment.

It appears that this may be an issue caused by a severely deviated septum, so I may need sinus surgery for that, or surgery to drain the maxillary sinus, or surgery to create a new drainage hole from the lacrymal sac into the nose. If I have surgical intervention in the future, I will update this post.

I cannot tell whether this is a side effect of a dry eye medication I take called Xiidra. I am continuing to experiment at home to see whether the symptoms worsen or improve without the dry eye drops.

Seeing multiple specialists for a severe infection that was causing serious quality of life issues (dacrocystitis was functionally equivalent to having pinkeye, in that my eye crusted shut from discharge, but it was significantly more painful) was not conducive to earning excellent grades in law school, so between this and a family issue I was able to work with my university to arrange for a medical leave. This is an unexpected silver lining to these troubles with my eye, and I think it is worth documenting since I know many of my readers are considering law school and may not know that leaves of absence are possible.

I am delighted that Northwestern has given me this unexpected gift of time. I did myself a huge disservice by leaving my last job on a Friday and starting law school orientation programs the following Monday, and I truly encourage my students to take some time to rest and actually make a transition. I thought when I began law school that it would be an easy transition, since I had been working remotely for nearly two years, and would be resuming school (my new job!) from the same office. I had the routines, I had the space, and I desperately needed the paycheck and there was no way to take a real vacation with the COVID situation unfolding. Having this second chance to take a break before beginning school is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. For the first time in years I have some breathing room to deal with nagging medical issues, establish healthy routines, organize my house, execute some gardening projects, etc. I also look forward to spending time with my family. At the suggestion of a mentor, I started a private course in classical grammar and composition via the Feltre School. My attention span is slowly returning and I feel that studying literature and philosophy has been morally as well as intellectually instructive.

I look forward to returning this summer to Accenture, which has again proven to be a tremendously accommodating place to work. I’m not sure I would have traded my summer internship there for this time off, but fortunately, I didn’t have to. With my summer legal employment secure, my focus is on finalizing a few B2B LSAT services offerings and finalizing a few new products for our existing B2C client base. I have a few writing projects (both LSAT related and not) and I hope to onboard a full-time operations manager before I return to school this fall. I have also entered into a business partnership with a wonderful person who I expect to be a lifelong friend, and another new friend and I are negotiating a merger.

My LSAT tutoring business continues to thrive, and has provided a much-needed safety net during this time off. Since launching elleSAT last June, I have had the good fortune every day of feeling aligned with my higher purpose and gifts, as witnessed by the continued blessings that flow into my life from the incredible people that I have met through LSAT tutoring. My LSAT students continue to include the most inspiring and accomplished people that I could ever hope to meet. Somehow, my world continues to expand in unexpected and wonderful ways, despite the outside forces that have somewhat narrowed my physical orbit this past year. I feel that I am doing less and achieving more, and I couldn’t be happier about it. This feeling of purposeful alignment continued to increase after I began my studies at Northwestern. I have come back into contact with people from my past who I had lost touch with who also have connections to Northwestern, and I have met people who I have never crossed paths with, but who I still feel deep connection with and affinity for. I am so happy to be joining the legal profession and to have the opportunity to further my education in an environment that is such a strong match for who I am.

As the trees outside my window begin to bloom (and block my tear ducts, probably), I can’t help but think back on this time last year, when I was on the brink of turning 32 and had no idea of the incredible things that were about to unfold. If my 34th year on earth is even half as wonderful as this one was, I think I will have enough sweet memories to treasure for a lifetime. Thank you, readers, for your continuing interest in my life.

To anyone finding this because of a tear duct issue, I hope that you find relief and will comment here about your experiences so that we can learn from one another.


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