Skip to main content

Search
Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Tear Duct, Blocked

|

Definition

  • Questions about a blocked tear duct previously diagnosed by a physician

Symptoms 

  • A continuously watery eye (excessive tearing)
  • Tears fill the eye and occasionally run down the face, even without crying
  • The eye is not red and the eyelid is not swollen (unless the soggy tissues become infected)
  • Present at birth (10% of newborns)
  • Both sides are blocked in 30% of children

Cause 

  • Caused by blockage of the channel (lacrimal duct) that normally carries tears from the eye to the nose.
  • Onset of excessive tearing can be delayed until 1 or 2 months old when tear production increases.

When to Call Your Doctor for Tear Duct - Blocked

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Red lump at inner corner of eyelid
  • Cloudy cornea
 

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Pus in the eye
  • Eyelid is red or swollen
 

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Diagnosis has never been confirmed by a physician
  • Age over 12 months old
 

Parent Care at Home If

  • Previously diagnosed blocked tear duct and you don't think your child needs to be seen
 

Home Care Advice for Blocked Tear Duct

  1. Reassurance: A blocked tear duct is a common condition that affects 10% of newborns. Both sides are blocked 30% of the time. A blocked tear duct requires no treatment unless it becomes infected.
  2. Pus in the Eye:
    • Lots of pus in the eye or eyelids stuck together (EXCEPTION: only in corner of the eye) means a secondary infection has occurred.
    • This is common with blocked tear ducts and should clear up in a few days with prescription antibiotic eyedrops or ointment.
    • Call or see your child's doctor for a prescription. In the meantime, do the following:
     
  3. Remove Pus: Remove the dried and liquid pus from the eyelids with warm water and wet cotton balls several times per day. Once you have antibiotic eyedrops, they will not work unless the pus is removed each time before they are put in.
  4. Massage:
    • Some physicians recommend routine massage of the lacrimal sac (where tears collect) twice a day, others do not. Massage is not required. The tear duct will open without any massage. If massage is recommended, do the following:
    • The lacrimal sac is in the inner lower corner of the eye. This sac can be massaged to empty it of old fluids and to check for early infection.
    • A cotton swab works much better than a finger.
    • Start at the inner corner of the eye and press upward. Be very gentle.
    • Clear fluid should come out of the corner of the eye.
     
  5. Expected Course: Over 90% of tear ducts open up spontaneously by the time the child is 12 months of age.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eye becomes infected
    • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
    • Your child becomes worse
     

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


References

  1. King, RA. Common ocular problems in children: Conjunctivitis and tear duct obstructions. Pediatrician. 1990;17:142-151.
  2. Paul TD and Shepard R. Congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction: Natural history and the timing of optional intervention. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 1994;31:362.
  3. Wong RK, VanderVeen DK. Presentation and management of congenital dacryocystocele. Pediatrics. 2008;122:e1108-e1112.

Disclaimer

This information is not intended to 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: 8/1/2010

Last Revised: 9/23/2010

Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)