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Treatment for Blocked Tear Ducts in Babies

Treatment for Blocked Tear Ducts in Babies

Tears play an important role in eye health, bathing your eyes with lubricants twash away debris and keep your eyes moist. For babies, tears play an especially important role in eye health, protecting very young eyes to promote normal development.

Produced by special glands around the eye, tears bathe the surface of the eye and drain away through small openings called nasolacrimal ducts. If these ducts are blocked, tears spill over the lids and increase the risk of eye infections and other problems.

At ABC Children's Eye Specialists, our team uses special techniques to treat blocked tear ducts in kids of all ages, including babies. Here, learn why blockages happen and how we can help restore tear distribution and prevent complications in your baby.

Blocked tear ducts: Why they happen

Tear duct obstruction is a surprisingly common problem in infancy: It’s estimated to affect up to 20% of newborns.

Most blockages happen when the end of the tear duct canal fails to open prior to birth. Other causes include eye infections, a narrow tear duct system, or problems with the drainage openings (puncta) in the eye. Sometimes, the nasal bone presses against the duct, preventing tear drainage.

If your baby has a blocked duct, you’ll notice symptoms like:

You may notice your child’s eyelids are “stuck together” by dried discharge when they wake in the morning or from naps.

Treating blocked ducts

Because a blocked duct increases the risk of eye infections, it’s important to have the lid evaluated by our team right away. Sometimes, the obstruction clears up on its own. 

In the meantime, we recommend at-home gentle massage to open the ducts combined with specialized eye drops to moisten the eyes and prevent infection. These simple steps may help regulate tear drainage as your baby’s ducts continue to develop.

For more severe cases, or if these steps don’t succeed in opening blocked ducts, we may recommend a minimally invasive approach to open the canal and improve tear drainage.

Tear duct probing

Tear duct probing uses a tiny thin, flexible probe to gently clear blockages inside the canal. Local anesthesia or sedation can help keep your baby comfortable.

Balloon tear duct dilation

Dilation involves inserting a very tiny surgical balloon into the duct. When the balloon is gently inflated, it widens the canal and removes the obstruction.

Tear duct intubation

Tear duct intubation is used for more significant or stubborn blockages. In this technique, we insert tiny silicone tubes into the tear duct to keep it open and allow tears to drain. In most instances, the tubes are removed after a few months, once the drainage canal has fully formed.

Keep your baby’s eyes healthy

Tear duct obstruction isn’t uncommon, but it should never be ignored. If you notice any unusual problems with your child’s eyes, early evaluation is the best way to prevent complications that could cause permanent vision loss.


To learn more about tear duct treatments or to schedule an exam and evaluation, call our offices today to book an appointment with the team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists in  Phoenix, Avondale, and Mesa, Arizona.

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