CHOC Children's
EYE CARE :: Eye Disorders

Blocked Tear Duct (Dacryostenosis)

What is a blocked tear duct?

This condition is called dacryostenosis or congenital (present at birth) lacrimal duct obstruction. Tears help clean and lubricate the eye and are produced in the lacrimal gland located under the bone of the eyebrow. Tears from the lacrimal gland lubricate the surface of the eye through tiny ducts along the eyelid. Tears drain through two small openings at the inner corner of the eyelids, then drain into a larger passage from the eye to the inside of the nose, called the nasolacrimal (tear) duct. In some babies, the nasolacrimal passage is too narrow or blocked.

What are the symptoms of a blocked tear duct?

Because infants do not produce tears until they are several weeks old, a blocked tear duct may not be noticed at birth. The most common symptoms of a blocked tear duct are:

  • tears pooling in the corner of your baby's eye
  • tears draining down your baby's eyelid and cheek
  • mucus or yellowish discharge in the inner corner of the eye

A blocked tear duct may be more noticeable when a baby cries, or in cold or windy weather when tears are stimulated. The symptoms of a blocked tear duct may resemble other serious eye conditions. An ophthalmologist should be consulted.

How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed?

A blocked tear duct is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and a physical examination of your child. Additional tests are not usually required.

Treatment for a blocked tear duct:

The most common initial treatment for a blocked tear duct is gently "milking" or massaging the nasolacrimal duct two to three times a day. Your child's physician will show you how to do this. If there are symptoms of infection, antibiotics, especially for use in the eye, may be used. Fortunately, the majority of blocked tear ducts self resolve by the time the child is 1 year old. If the duct remains blocked after this time, the duct opening can be enlarged with a small probe under general anesthesia.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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