Tear Duct - Blocked  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • Questions about a blocked tear duct
  • The tear duct is the tube that carries tears from the eye to the nose
  • It’s blocked in 10% of newborns
  • Use this guide only if a doctor has told you it’s a blocked tear duct

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Clear part in the middle of the eye (cornea) is cloudy
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Red lump at inner corner of eyelid
  • Eyelid is red or swollen
  • Pus in the eye
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Diagnosis has never been made by a doctor
  • Age over 12 months old
Parent Care at Home If
  • Blocked tear duct
Causes & Health Information

Symptoms

  • A constant watery eye
  • Tears fill the eye and run down the face. This happens even when not crying.
  • The eye is not red and the eyelid is not swollen.
  • Both sides are blocked in 30% of these children.

Cause

  • Caused by blockage of the lacrimal duct. This duct carries tears from the corner of the eye to the nose.
  • A watery eye may not be noticed until 1 or 2 months old. Reason: That's when the eye starts making more tears.
CARE ADVICE FOR BLOCKED TEAR DUCT

  1. What You Should Know:
    • A blocked tear duct is common. It happens in 10% of newborns.
    • Both sides are blocked 30% of the time.
    • A blocked tear duct does not need treatment unless it becomes infected.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pus in the Eye:
    • Pus in the eye or eyelids stuck together means the eye is infected.
    • This is common with blocked tear ducts. It should clear up in a few days with antibiotic eyedrops.
    • For pus in the eye, call your child's doctor for a prescription.
    • In the meantime, here is some advice that should help.
  3. Remove Pus:
    • Remove the dried and liquid pus from the eyelids with warm water and wet cotton balls.
    • Do this each time you see pus.
    • Also, clean the eyes before you use the prescription eyedrops. The eyedrops will not work unless the pus is removed first.
  4. Massage:
    • Some doctors suggest massage of the lacrimal sac (where tears collect). Other doctors do not. Massage is not required. The tear duct will open without any massage. If massage is advised, do it this way:
    • The lacrimal sac is in the inner lower corner of the eye. This sac can be massaged to empty it of old fluids.
    • A cotton swab works much better than a finger. Reason: The swab is smaller.
    • Start at the inner corner of the eye and press upward. Be very gentle. Do this twice a day.
    • Fluid and mucus should come out of the lacrimal sac.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Over 90% of tear ducts open up on their own.
    • This should happen by the time the child is 12 months of age.
    • If your child is over 12 months old, talk to your child's doctor. Your child may need to see an eye doctor.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eye looks infected
    • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.