Dacryoadenitis (Lacrimal Gland Inflammation)

Dacryoadenitis is inflammation in one or both of your lacrimal glands (your tear glands). It’s caused by infections or autoimmune diseases. Dacryoadenitis is very treatable, but visit your eye care specialist or healthcare provider as soon as you notice swelling, pain or discoloration near your eye.


What is dacryoadenitis?

Dacryoadenitis is inflammation in your lacrimal glands (tear glands). You have one lacrimal gland behind the upper outside corner of each of your eyes. They make your tears and are part of your tear system. The glands are each about the size of an almond.

If something irritates one of your lacrimal glands, it swells. Dacryoadenitis is the medical name for this inflammation. Dacryoadenitis can be caused by lots of conditions, but it’s usually an infection or an autoimmune disease. It can affect one of your eyes (unilateral dacryoadenitis) or both of them at the same time (bilateral dacryoadenitis).

It might hurt to move your affected eye. Your tear gland might also produce extra tears, which can make your eye feel watery. Dacryoadenitis usually doesn’t affect your vision. But if the swelling is severe enough to put pressure on your eye, it can affect your ability to see.

It’s common for people with dacryoadenitis to feel scared or have a sense of fear about their affected eye. Dacryoadenitis is almost always a temporary condition that can be treated with medication. Depending on what’s causing the dacryoadenitis, you’ll probably need around a month to recover.

Visit your eye care specialist as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or vision — especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like pain, swelling and discoloration.

Who gets dacryoadenitis?

Anyone can experience dacryoadenitis. Experts aren’t sure exactly how many people develop it each year because it can be caused by so many other conditions or issues.

Some studies have found that dacryoadenitis is more common in kids and young adults than adults older than 50.

Dacryoadenitis caused by an autoimmune disease is more common in people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Experts think this is because autoimmune diseases are more common in those people in general.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of dacryoadenitis?

Dacryoadenitis symptoms include:

What causes dacryoadenitis?

Dacryoadenitis can be caused by two types of conditions:

  • Acute dacryoadenitis: Dacryoadenitis caused by an infection is acute. It’s usually a viral or bacterial infection. It’s rare, but fungal infections and parasites can cause acute dacryoadenitis, too. It usually only affects one of your eyes.
  • Chronic dacryoadenitis: Autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation in your lacrimal glands cause chronic dacryoadenitis. It’s more common for chronic dacryoadenitis to come back (even after treatment) and to affect both of your eyes at the same time.

What causes acute dacryoadenitis?

The most common infections that cause acute dacryoadenitis include:

What causes chronic dacryoadenitis

Chronic dacryoadenitis is caused by autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is the result of your immune system accidentally attacking your body instead of protecting it. It’s unclear why your immune system does this.

Autoimmune diseases that can cause chronic dacryoadenitis include:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is dacryoadenitis diagnosed?

Your eye care specialist will diagnose dacryoadenitis with an eye exam.

They’ll look at your eye (including inside it) and ask you about your symptoms. They might need a blood test to check for signs of infection or inflammation. They might also biopsy your lacrimal gland.

Your eye care specialist might also need an imaging test to take pictures of your lacrimal gland and to see the inflammation under your skin. The most common imaging tests used to diagnose dacryoadenitis include:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
  • A CT scan (computed tomography scan).

Management and Treatment

How is dacryoadenitis treated?

How dacryoadenitis is treated depends on what’s causing it.

Acute dacryoadenitis is treated with medications for the infection that’s causing your symptoms. You’ll need antivirals for a virus or antibiotics to cure a bacterial infection. Make sure to take your medicine for as long as your healthcare provider or eye care specialist prescribes it. Even if you start feeling better or your symptoms go away, you need to finish the full course of medication to make sure all the infection is killed. If you stop your medicine early, there’s a chance the infection can come back stronger than it was the first time.

Chronic dacryoadenitis is usually treated by managing the autoimmune disease that’s causing your symptoms. Talk to your provider about how to manage your symptoms and which treatments you’ll need. They might prescribe a corticosteroid to help reduce the inflammation and swelling near your eye.

Your provider or eye care specialist might suggest you apply a warm compress to your affected eye. They’ll tell you how often (and for how long) you should apply one.



How can I reduce my risk?

The best way to prevent acute dacryoadenitis is to wash your hands frequently, especially before you touch your eyes. When you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth, any germs on your hands can enter your body through mucous membranes in your eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands with clean, running water, lather them with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds.

If you have an autoimmune disease, it might be impossible to prevent chronic dacryoadenitis. Your provider will tell you how to manage your symptoms as they come and go (recur).

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have dacryoadenitis?

You should expect to make a full recovery from dacryoadenitis. Acute dacryoadenitis symptoms should go away after the infection has been treated. Chronic dacryoadenitis symptoms can recur depending on which autoimmune disease is causing them. Talk to your provider or eye care specialist about what to expect.

Most people take around a month to recover from dacryoadenitis. Talk to your provider or eye care specialist if your symptoms are getting worse or don’t improve after you start treatment.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit your eye care specialist as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or vision.

Go the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A sudden loss of vision.
  • Swelling in or near your eye that’s getting worse quickly.
  • Severe eye pain.
  • You see new flashes or floaters in your eyes.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Which type of dacryoadenitis do I have?
  • What caused the dacryoadenitis?
  • Which treatments will I need?
  • How long should I take my medication?
  • Will my symptoms come back in the future?

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between dacryoadenitis and dacryocystitis?

Dacryoadenitis and dacryocystitis are both conditions that affect parts of your tear system. The difference is where the inflammation happens.

Dacryoadenitis is inflammation in one or both of your lacrimal glands — your tear glands that are located behind the outside upper corner of each eye. It’s usually caused by infections.

Dacryocystitis is inflammation in one of your lacrimal sacs. It’s more common than dacryoadenitis. Lacrimal sacs in the inside corner of your eyes collect tears that drain out of your eyes before they enter your tear ducts. Blocked tear ducts (nasolacrimal duct obstruction) are the most common cause of dacryocystitis.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Dacryoadenitis is inflammation in one or both of your lacrimal glands — the almond-sized glands near the upper outside corners of your eyes that make your tears. It can be scary to have swelling in or near your eye, especially if it appears suddenly. But dacryoadenitis almost always gets better in around a month. If it’s caused by an infection, make sure to take the full course of medicine your healthcare provider prescribes to kill the infection completely.

If you have an autoimmune disease that’s causing dacryoadenitis, your eye care specialist or healthcare provider can help you understand how to manage your symptoms and lessen their impact on your daily routine.

Visit your eye care specialist as soon you notice swelling, pain or discoloration near one of your eyes. Dacryoadenitis is very treatable, but you need your eye examined and symptoms diagnosed right away to avoid damage to your tear system.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/02/2022.

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