Bloody tears. Tears as in ‘rip’ or tears as in ‘cry’?

News reports of the mother of Calvino Inman desperately looking for doctors that have experience of managing patients with “bloody tears” have been reported over the last few days treating the condition as a medical mystery. (Thanks to CasesNetwork for Tweeting!).

However, it seems that she should go no further than her home state of Tennessee where doctors published a case series of this condition only a few years ago.

Ho VH, Wilson MW, Linder JS, Fleming JC, Haik BG. Bloody tears of unknown cause: case series and review of the literature. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Nov;20(6):442-7.

Do doctors read the literature these days? I’m sure they do but they probably do not search effectively. Putting ‘blood tears’ into PubMed gives a lot of links to Mallory-Weiss tears which is very different from the search ‘bloody tears’. (Internet search engines give very poor results to either search other than finding the news stories of this particular case.)

This is a common theme in case reports where a particular case is thought to be unique but it is only because the other cases have been published with a different name. Unfamiliar cases have unfamiliar language. If you were familiar with the term haemolacria (which I wasn’t) then searching would be much easier but you’d probably already be an expert!