Inflammation of the lacrimal gland

Synonyms in a broader sense

Medical: Glandula lacrimalis
Dacryocystitis, canaliculitis


The tears are produced by the lacrimal gland, which is located in the upper outer corner of the eye. Not only do these glands contribute to tear formation, so-called accessory (additional) tear glands are also involved.

The actual lacrimal gland lies under the outer bony edge of the eye socket. A muscle divides it into a (lower) eyelid part and an (upper) eye socket part. This muscle is the lifting muscle of the upper lid (Levator palpebrae muscle).


The lacrimal gland produces about 5 to 7 microliters of tear fluid per minute.

The accessory lacrimal glands are found in the fold of the conjunctiva, i.e. at the point where the conjunctiva of the eye turns into the conjunctiva of the lid. The lower envelope fold can be seen simply by pulling down the lower part. The upper fold remains hidden and is only revealed by turning around or folding the upper eyelid outwards. The accessory glands are located in both the upper and lower folds.

The various parts of the tear film are conducted from the glands through so-called excretory ducts onto the surface of the eye.

1. The acute inflammation of the lacrimal gland

root cause

The inflammation of the lacrimal gland is associated with severe pain. Mostly it occurs unilaterally and is typically associated with viral diseases. The main viral diseases are mumps or glandular fever. But other pathogens can also be used as triggers.

Symptoms / complaints

The inflamed lacrimal gland reacts particularly painfully to pressure. In the area of ​​the lacrimal gland, i.e. in the upper outer corner of the eye, there is reddening and swelling (reddened eye), which gives the lid its typical paragraph shape. The lid is pressed down particularly strongly on the outside, where the gland is close by. The further you follow the lid to the inner corner of the eye, the wider the cleft becomes. The eye is therefore more open inside than outside. This curved lid shape creates the shape of a paragraph sign (§).


Since lacrimal inflammation is usually associated with other diseases, these should be treated primarily. Moist, warm compresses or pain relievers can also help.

Inflammation of the upper eyelid

The lacrimal gland is located at the top laterally in the eye socket and in anatomical proximity to the upper eyelid. Therefore, inflammation of the lacrimal gland can quickly spread to the upper eyelid. This clinical picture is called eyelid inflammation or blepharitis. The patients suffer from redness, pain and severe swelling on the temple side. The swelling has a characteristic shape called the paragraph shape of the upper eyelid.

The upper eyelid can be so swollen that it is difficult for the sick person to open the eye. Those affected not only suffer from the pain and functional restrictions, but the inflammation is also cosmetically very disturbing. If there is severe swelling and pain, an ophthalmologist should be consulted who can prescribe the appropriate therapy.

Also read the article on the topic: Pain in the corner of the eye

Inflammation of the lower eyelid

An inflammation of the lacrimal gland characteristically leads to a painful swelling of the upper eyelid, since the lacrimal gland is located at the upper edge of the eye, whereas inflammation of the lower eyelid is less common. In the event of an infection with bacteria, however, the pathogens can spread and the lower eyelid become inflamed. People have a swollen lower abdomen and often have dry eyes that burn and itch. The doctor treats an infectious, bacterial eyelid inflammation with antibiotics.

Inflammation of the lacrimal duct

The tear fluid formed in the lacrimal canal is drained out into the nose via the lacrimal canal (ductus nasolacrimalis). An infectious inflammation of the lacrimal gland can spread and subsequently also affect the lacrimal canal. As a result of the infection, the tear secretion that has formed can no longer be completely removed and builds up.

The narrowing (stenosis) of the tear duct also leads to inflammation of the tear sac (dacyrocystitis). The doctor treats eye bags with disinfectant poultices and antibiotics. If necessary, surgical opening of the tear duct stenosis may be necessary.

Find out more about the topic: Inflammation of the bags under the eyes

2. The chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland

Chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland also occurs.
Here the gland is often less painful than in the acute form. Different types of pathogens can be the trigger, e.g. Bacteria and fungi.
The chronic inflammation develops slowly and painlessly. It can affect both sides or just one side. Treatment is with pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Symptoms acute vs. chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland

The acute Dacryoadenitis primarily affects children with any of the following primary diseases:

  • Scarlet fever
  • mumps
  • flu
  • measles
  • bacterial infections

1.In acute inflammation, the outer upper eyelid swells, is tender on pressure and reddened. The shape of the lid is curved in a wavy manner, which resembles a lying paragraph mark. Tears are more likely to flow, while in contrast with chronic inflammation or tumors of the lacrimal gland, tear production dries up and leads to the so-called "Dry eye" leads.

Read more on the topic: Puffy eyelids, puffy eyes

2. In the case of chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland, the affected person has no pain, but more swelling forms. Most often, another chronic inflammatory disease or a systemic disease is the cause of the chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland, such as:

  • tuberculosis
  • leukemia
  • syphilis


If the cause of the inflammation of the lacrimal gland is unclear, an X-ray examination of the eye socket and the adjacent paranasal sinuses can be carried out in addition to the clinical examination.

Therapy for inflammation of the lacrimal gland

Depending on the cause, the form of treatment is adapted. In the case of bacterial inflammation, antibiotics are necessary, while in the case of chronic forms, the therapy depends on the underlying disease. If the eye is dry, "artificial tears" are appropriate in order to ensure that the eye is adequately moistened. Depending on the severity, moist compresses or painkillers may be necessary.

Homeopathy for an inflamed lacrimal gland

There are numerous homeopathic remediesused for eye discomfort. Usually the means is directed according to the existing symptoms. Above all, you will find a number of homeopathic remedies that are supposed to help with heavily watery and inflamed eyes.

An example of such a homeopathic complex remedy is this Oculoheel. According to the manufacturer, it helps against irritated, watery eyes, eyelid margin, and lacrimal gland Conjunctivitis. It's in both Tablet and drop form available. It contains homeopathic substances such as Apis mellifica, Sodium chloratum, Rhus toxicodendron, Hepar sulfuris, Spigelia, Staphisagria and Aethiops mineralis. That is the composition of the tablets.
The drops contain, among other things Euphrasia officinalis, Cochlearia officinalis, Jaborandi and Echinacea angustifolia. You will also find recommendations for the fabrics more often Allium cepa, Calcium Carbonicum, Graphites and Heparis sulfuris calcareum.

Home remedies for an inflammation of the lacrimal gland

There are some home remediesthat can relieve the discomfort of sore eyes.

The Swelling of the eyes you can with cooling pads fight. You can, for example, Cucumbers and cool washcloths use. A wrung out tea bag (black tea) can also reduce the swelling by placing it on the eye. It should also have cooled down. Also towels that come with soaked in cool chamomile tea or black tea serve as a good calming pad for the eye. You can do this too overnight on the eyes left.

However, the inflammation should for more than two days persist, it is recommended one To see a doctor and not try self-medication. Also should nothing directly on the eyeball be applied, not even tea. All requirements are on the closed eyes to lay.

However, they should be uncomfortable and additional complaints like causing an itch or burning sensation, they must removed immediately become. However, this case is very unlikely.

Duration of healing of an acute form

The time it takes to heal an acute lacrimal inflammation depends mainly on what triggered the infection and whether treatment is initiated. An acute inflammation of the lacrimal gland usually heals after about 7-11 days. If the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor prescribes antibiotics, which improve the symptoms relatively quickly. A viral infection cannot be treated causally at the moment, but various medications and decongestant measures (e.g. moisturizing eye drops, warm compresses on the eye) will remedy the acute symptoms within a short time. In many cases, acute dacryoadenitis heals spontaneously without treatment.

The duration of the illness is also largely dependent on hygiene. A smear infection (especially when touching the eyes with unwashed hands) can easily spread germs into the other eye and the healing time is considerably extended.

Is inflammation of the lacrimal gland contagious?

Acute inflammation of the lacrimal gland (dacryoadenitis) is in most cases caused by an infection and is therefore contagious. Viral infections such as mumps, measles, rubella, mononucleosis or influenza are the most common causes of acute dacryoadenitis. But bacteria, such as streptococci or staphylococci, can also cause a contagious inflammation of the lacrimal gland. Chronic lacrimal inflammation is usually caused by injuries to the lacrimal gland or various diseases (for example leukemia or Hodgkin's disease) and are then not contagious.

Inflammation of the lacrimal glands in babies

Inflammation of the lacrimal gland is quite common in newborns and babies. Most often the cause of such inflammation is a bacterial infection. But viruses such as the mumps virus also play a role in the development.

The well-known childhood diseases scarlet fever and mumps favor the development of inflammation of the lacrimal gland. Scarlet fever is particularly common in children between the ages of three and ten. Children between the ages of four and fifteen usually go through mumps. The children can get scarlet fever up to four times. However, having been infected with mumps leaves a lifelong immunity.

In babies and newborns, the main cause of the inflammation is a congenital closure of the lacrimal duct. In about a third of newborns, this drainage path for tears is closed by a thin membrane. Signs of this are recurrent inflammation of the eye on the affected side. It is watery and shows a yellowish crust on the edges of the eyelids, especially in the morning, but especially on the inner corner of the eye. This is caused by the inflammatory secretions of the lacrimal gland and the increased flow of tears.
The congestion of tears in the eye favors the colonization of bacteria and thus creates good conditions for an inflammation to develop. Such bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotic eye drops. These are easier to apply to babies than ointments.
In many cases, however, the problem resolves spontaneously within the first year of life (usually in the first five months of life). If this is not the case, the tear duct is probed and rinsed under anesthesia after the first year of life. This procedure is painful and therefore takes place under anesthesia.

Apart from this, there are also other congenital malformations in the area of ​​the tear ducts that can lead to recurring inflammations. Colds and sinus infections can also lead to blockages and constrictions (stenoses) in the area of ​​the drainage channels and thus cause tears to congest in babies. If medication is not sufficient for treatment, the natural tear ducts can be restored by an operation (tear duct endoscopy). A tear duct prosthesis may very rarely be required. These interventions are also very painful and therefore take place under anesthesia.

Read more on the topic Reddened eyes in children and babies

The chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland

Risk factors for chronic lacrimal inflammation

Certain Risk factors and Underlying diseases in some cases lead to a chronic lacrimal inflammation:

  • Immunosuppression
  • immunodeficiency
  • Scarlet fever
  • mumps
  • flu
  • Colds
  • Insect bite
  • diphtheria
  • tuberculosis
  • leukemia
  • Lymphogranulomatosis
  • Sarcoid

The chronic lacrimal inflammation is mostly caused by a bacterial pathogen caused. These include Staphylococci, Streptococci and Pneumococci.

The different shapes

The Dacryoadenitis is divided into two forms: the acute Lacrimal inflammation (Acute dacryoadenitis) and the chronic Inflammation of the lacrimal gland (Dacryoadenitis chronica).

Symptoms of chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland

The chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland is usually a one-sided clinical picture. Only the affected eye is swollen, very red and tender on pressure. Conjunctivitis (conjunctivitis) is also possible.

The upper eyelid has the so-called "paragraph shape". Because of the pain and often also the swelling, the affected eye can sometimes no longer be opened. The eyelashes stick together as a result of yellowish discharge from the eye. In severe cases, fever, vomiting, and headache may be accompanying symptoms.


The treatment of chronic lacrimal inflammation is directed against the underlying disease and is e.g. done with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Differential diagnosis

As an alternative to chronic inflammation of the lacrimal gland, the following diseases must be considered:

  • Tumors in the eyelid area
  • paraneoplastic syndrome
  • Lid abscess
  • Lipodermoids
  • Hordeolum
  • Periostitis of the bony orbit
  • Orbital phlegmon
  • Insect bite
  • allergic reaction

Heerfordt Syndrome

The Heerfordt Syndrome (Febris uveoparotidea) is named after the Danish ophthalmologist Christian Frederick Heerfordt (* 1871, † 1953) and represents a chronic inflammation of the parotid gland (Parotid gland) and the lacrimal gland. The disease can involve the ciliary body and iris of the eye (Iridocyclitis) accompanied.

Cranial nerves, the female breast or gonads can also be affected. Heerfordt's syndrome occurs particularly in connection with sarcoid.
The symptoms are typically composed as follows:

  • fever
  • Parotid swelling
  • Anterior uveitis
  • Facial paralysis

Duration of healing of the chronic form

Usually the chronic form of lacrimal inflammation is based on another chronic disease. Therefore, in this case, the underlying disease must also be treated. Which therapy is best suited for this and how long it takes to heal depends on the specific disease. The doctor can, however, prescribe preparations (for example creams containing cortisone or eye drops) that reduce the inflammation in the lacrimal gland and thereby improve the symptoms.