Tears are essential for keeping your eyes healthy. Your body makes tears 24 / 7 and normally they drain without issue. When they do not drain properly it may be due to a condition called a “blocked tear duct” or “nasolacrimal duct obstruction.” This condition may be congenital and is therefore commonly seen in babies.
Tears are produced by the lacrimal gland as well as by accessory glands within the eyelids. Drainage of tears occurs via small pin hole sized openings on the margin of the inner corners of the eyelids. These openings, called punctae, in turn lead to the nasolacrimal ducts which ultimately empty inside the nose. This is why your nose runs when you cry. When there is a blockage in the nasolacrimal duct, tears are unable to pass through and drain. As a result, tears pool in the eye and sometimes spill over, running down onto the cheeks. When tears cannot drain normally, there is also a tendency to get eye infections.
Blocked tear ducts in babies usually resolve within the first several months of life. If the symptoms do not go away by one year of age, then surgical treatment might be needed.
What are the Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct?
Symptoms can vary, but some common findings include:
- Frequent wetness around the eye with tears spilling down onto the cheek
- Pooling of tears
- Reddening of the eyelid skin around the eye
- Mucus or yellow discharge
Because the symptoms may be similar to other conditions, it is important for your child to be evaluated by a pediatric ophthalmologist.
How is a Blocked Tear Duct Diagnosed?
A blocked tear duct can usually be diagnosed with a careful physical examination and review of the child’s symptoms.
How is a blocked tear duct treated?
Treatment for a blocked tear duct depends on the age of onset and duration of symptoms.
The treatment may include massaging the tear sac a couple of times per day. Your pediatric ophthalmologist will explain where this is located and demonstrate how to perform.
If symptoms persist beyond one year of age, the doctor might recommend probing the tear duct to treat the blockage. This is a surgical procedure that is done with the child having anesthesia at a surgery center.
What are the Complications of a Blocked Tear Duct?
Blocked tear ducts can lead to recurrent infections. Frequent infections, in turn, may cause scarring of the nasolacrimal duct that makes the problem harder to treat.
Uncommonly, the child can develop an infection within the tear sac called dacryocystitis and this is a medical emergency. Dacryocystitis is treated with systemic antibiotics.
What Should I Discuss With My Child’s Doctor if I Suspect a Blocked Duct
It is important to come prepared for your appointment with your provider. Some tips to consider include:
- Write down symptoms and questions you might have
- During the visit, write down treatment instructions
- If medication is prescribed make sure you understand why it is prescribed and how to administer the treatment
- Ask about any side effects if you have concerns
- Understand why different tests and procedures are recommended and why they may be successful for your child’s symptoms
- Make sure to keep follow-up appointments if applicable
Where Can I Find the Best Pediatric Eye Doctor Near Me?
Pediatric Eye Associates are known for having the best pediatric ophthalmologists in NJ and for their quality of care and individualized treatment options for your child.
If you are concerned that your child has a blocked tear duct or any other vision concerns, make an appointment to have your child evaluated. The sooner the child can receive treatment for their vision concerns, the sooner they can be helped.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon! We are also happy to answer any questions you may have.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.