As a new parent, you have a lot to worry about. That’s true whether you’re a first-time parent or you have ample experience navigating the “baby years.” That’s because every child is, of course, different, so caring for a new baby is bound to present at least a few new challenges and experiences.
Blocked tear ducts aren’t rare, but they’re uncommon enough that their symptoms can look pretty alarming. You need to know that blocked tear ducts can be treated — and in fact, early treatment is essential for preventing potentially harmful eye infections.
At ABC Children’s Eye Specialists, our team specializes in pediatric ophthalmology, so you can feel confident that your child will receive optimal care to support a lifetime of healthy vision. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms of blocked tear ducts and why treatment is so important.
Blocked tear ducts: The basics
Tear ducts are the tiny openings or tubes that drain tears out of your eyes. Together with the tiny glands that produce your tears, they protect your eyes by washing away debris and keeping your eye surface moist and healthy.
Tear ducts are located near the inner corner of your eye. If a duct is blocked, tears can’t drain, which means debris and germs can linger on the eye’s surface.
About 10% of newborns have blocked tear ducts, but the obstructions can develop later too. Blockages can happen in one eye or both at the same time. Most blockages that are present at birth clear up by the child’s first birthday, but sometimes they persist.
Common causes of blocked ducts include:
- Congenital (present at birth) issues, like narrow ducts or tissue blockage
- Eye injury
- Fleshy growths (polyps) inside the nose
- Nasal cysts or tumors
- Overgrowth of nasal bone
Infections can also cause duct blockage.
Symptoms to look for
Knowing the symptoms of tear duct blockage can help you seek treatment early. The most common symptoms include:
- Continual tearing
- Tear overflow (not associated with crying)
- Thick or viscous tears
- Crusting along the eyelid
Tear duct blockage typically isn’t associated with eye redness or swelling unless the blockage is caused by an infection. In that case, you might notice yellowish drainage from the eye as well.
Treating blocked tear ducts
Without treatment, tear duct blockage can lead to eye infections, like conjunctivitis. If your child continually rubs their eyes because of tear buildup, they may inadvertently scratch the cornea, making it more vulnerable to infection as well.
Our team treats tear duct obstructions on a patient-by-patient basis, depending on your child’s symptoms, age, and other factors.
For instance, blocked ducts in newborns typically clear up on their own. In these instances, our team monitors your child and recommends home treatments to ensure their eyes stay healthy.
If a little home care isn’t enough to clear up a blockage, our team may recommend a minimally invasive treatment to restore normal tear drainage. These options use special techniques to open blocked ducts, widen narrow openings, or insert tiny tubes to promote better drainage from the eye.
Specialized care for your youngest family members
Children definitely have different health needs compared with adults, and that includes their eye health and vision needs. As pediatric ophthalmologists, our team has the skills and experience necessary to provide your child with comprehensive eye care tuned to their unique and evolving needs.
If you think your child may have a blocked tear duct, or if you notice any other changes in vision or eye health, don’t put off care. Book an appointment online or over the phone at our locations in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona, today.