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Medical hypotheses

Gastroesophageal reflux disease and the presence of pepsin in the tears.


PMID 23218443

Abstract

The nasolacrimal duct in association with the lacrimal puncta, lacrimal canaliculi and lacrimal sac functions to collect and drain the tear film into the nasal cavity at the inferior nasal meatus where a fold of nasal mucosa, the so-called valve of Hasner, prevents mucous from entering the nose. High-resolution computed tomography demonstrated air inside the sac and nasolacrimal duct in approximately 29.3% of healthy patients suggesting that the system is not completely competent and that air and secretions might reach the precorneal film. Gastroesophageal reflux disease may contribute to dacryostenosis and subsequent primary acquired nasolacrimal duct obstruction. However a cause-effect relationship is unclear and only presumptive unless the presence of pepsin in tears can be demonstrated. Gastroesophageal and extra-esophageal reflux could reach the tear film via the nasolacrimal duct in a retrograde fashion and the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. We postulated that the ascending products of gastroesophageal reflux could cause edema of the nasolacrimal duct mucosa, which might progress to fibrosis and chronic inflammation and, ultimately, complete obstruction of the duct with epiphora. The role of reflux in the initial phase of this pathophysiological mechanisms could be demonstrated indirectly by pepsin. By contrast, the development of dacryostenosis blocking the passage of the nasolacrimal duct and thereby preventing pepsin from reaching the lacrimal film failed to explain the influence of gastroesophageal reflux disease with certainty.

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