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Tearing/Blocked Tear Duct (Pediatric)

What is a blocked tear duct?

A blocked tear duct (or nasolacrimal duct) is a common problem in infancy. It typically manifests as frequent tearing along with mucous discharge and crusting of the affected eye. This blockage affects the outflow duct that normally drains tear fluid from the eye down into the nose. The condition is most commonly is caused by residual fetal tissue inside the duct.

The lack of flow predisposes the duct to infection and swelling which then spills out onto the lid and surface of the eye.

Vision is generally not affected by a blocked tear duct, though it may be associated with amblyopia.

How is a blocked tear duct treated?

Antibiotics and massage of the area over the affected duct can help reduce severity and encourage the duct to open. Most cases will resolve spontaneously over a few weeks to months. Chronic cases, or those involving particularly severe infections, may require a minor surgical procedure. This involves passing a tiny metal probe through the tear duct to push though the blockage. This approach is successful in over 90% of cases. More advanced procedures may be recommended if simple probing fails.