Blocked tear duct

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A blocked tear duct often occurs among infants but can occur at any age. The tears normally drain from the eye via small-sized tubes called tear ducts that stretch from the eye into the nose. Once a tear duct is blocked or fails to open, tears could not drain from the eye properly. The duct might be filled with fluid and become swollen, inflamed and even infected in some cases.

In most cases, a blocked tear duct among infants settle on their own during the first year. It does not have any effect on the vision or cause any permanent eye issues.

Possible causes of a blocked tear duct

  • Failure of the thin tissue at the end of the tear duct to normally open
  • Infections
  • Closed or underdeveloped opening in the eye corners where tears drain into the tear ducts
  • Abnormal growth of the nasal bone that places pressure on a tear duct and seals it off
    Blocked tear duct
    Increased tearing that ranges from the wet appearance of the eye or tears running down the cheek.

Among adults, a blocked tear duct can be triggered by an injury to the tissues or bones around the eyes or from certain disorders oftentimes linked to aging.

What are the indications?

The symptoms often involve only one eye and includes the following:

  • Increased tearing that ranges from the wet appearance of the eye or tears running down the cheek.
  • White or yellowish buildup in the eye corner and the eyelids might stick together.
  • Swelling and redness around the nose or eye which might be due to an infection in the drainage system of the eye.

These symptoms often worsen after an upper respiratory infection such as sinusitis or common cold. In addition, cold, wind and sunlight can worsen the symptoms.


In most infants who have a blocked tear duct, treatment is not required. The risk for infection and other issues until the blockage settles can be reduced with the following:

  • Keep the eye clean always. When wiping away drainage, moisten a clean face cloth or cotton ball using warm water and wipe gently from the inner to the outer part of the eye.
  • If suggested by the doctor, massage gently the area of blockage to prevent the buildup of fluid in the duct.
  • Try to limit exposure of the child to cold, wind and sunlight
  • Always wash hands before and after touching the eye area.

In case the indications of infection develop, the child might be given antibiotics.

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