Recognizing the Signs of a Tear Duct Obstruction

Tear duct obstruction is a common eye condition among infants. About 5% of all babies experience it in one or both eyes. Fortunately, in most cases, the condition clears up on its own by the age of 1. In about 10% of cases, however, medical intervention is necessary.

Tear ducts, also called nasolacrimal ducts, allow your tears to drain down your nasal passage and away from your eyes. If the duct is blocked, tears collect in and overflow from your eyes.

Tears wash away debris and bacteria. If tears collect in your eyes, so may debris and bacteria, which can lead to an infection. Tear duct obstruction can be painful and uncomfortable. 

At ABC Children's Eye Specialists PC in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona, our experienced ophthalmologists can help diagnose and treat this common pediatric eye condition. Take a moment to learn the signs that your child may have a tear duct obstruction. 

What causes tear duct obstruction?

The most common cause of tear duct obstruction in newborns is a membrane at the tear duct's end. In most cases, this membrane disappears soon after birth. In other cases, it can lead to an obstruction. 

Other causes of tear duct obstruction include:

Tear duct obstruction symptoms

Tear duct obstruction can be uncomfortable and make your child irritable. You might notice increased tears, thick tears, crusty eyelashes, and red and swollen eyelids in the child. 

The severity of symptoms can vary based on the weather and your child's health. Catching a cold could exacerbate issues. Other tear duct obstruction signs include:

Tear duct obstruction treatment

While most tear duct obstructions resolve on their own, some cases require surgery. Additionally, there are treatments available to help your child until the obstruction resolves. Some nonsurgical treatment options include eye drops and tear duct massage.

Massaging the tear ducts can promote tear drainage, which relieves pressure and uncomfortable symptoms. 

If the tear duct remains blocked at about 8-10 months, your doctor may recommend other procedures to treat the issue. Some of these procedures include tear duct probing, balloon tear duct dilation, and tear duct intubation.

If you think your child has a tear duct obstruction, call ABC Children's Eye Specialists or request an appointment online. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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