Blocked Tear Duct

What is a blocked tear duct?

This happens when the tube that drains the tears from the eye into the nose becomes blocked. It is a common condition in babies that begins before a child is 1 month old. Most blocked tear ducts open up on their own within 6 to 12 months.

What are the possible symptoms?

Your child may have one or more of the following symptoms, often seen only in one eye. But they may also be seen in both:

  • Watery eye(s)
  • Tears running down the face without crying
  • Crusting on eyelashes

What is the treatment?

Your child's doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. Some general guidelines to follow include:

  • Wash your hands well before and after touching your baby's eyes.
  • Gently cleanse the eye with a warm, wet washcloth to remove crusts.
  • Apply gentle pressure on the tear sac that lies in the nose corner of the eye socket.
  • Massage gently inward and downward with a clean finger three times a day. Make sure your finger nails are cut short and filed smooth.
  • Daily massage may prevent blocked tear ducts from becoming infected and may help to open the blockage.

If infection is present, your child’s doctor may order eye drops or eye ointment. If the infection continues even with treatment, your child’s doctor may refer your child to an eye specialist.

When should I call the doctor?

Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • The eyelids are red and swollen
  • A red or tender lump appears at the inner, lower corner of the eyelid

Also call your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Has red eyes with pus-like drainage
  • Is 6 months old and the eye is still watering

In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

This is general information and is not specific medical advice for your child. Always consult your child’s doctor or other healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the care or health of your child. This information is provided by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

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