Newborn Medical Series: Blocked Tear Duct
A blocked tear duct is a condition that causes the eye to tear much more than usual. The eye has a small set of tubes that run underneath the eye that allows tears to travel from inner eyelid to inside of the nose. If these tubes are blocked, it causes tears to drain abnormally.
Although all ages can get a blocked tear duct, it is very common in babies because of how tiny their tear ducts are. Common causes of a blocked tear duct are injury or infection, but newborns can sometimes be born with it. If a blocked tear duct starts growing bacteria, the eye can become infected.
Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct
Increased tearing sometimes or all of the time
Crusting on the eyelids
Redness of the eye (bloodshot)
A blue-colored area of swelling between the nose and the eye (this only happens if both ends of the duct are blocked)
Symptoms of an Infected Blocked Tear Duct
Symptoms can resemble that of a stye in adults
Warmth at the site
Pus drainage from the eye
Most blocked or infected tear ducts will be diagnosed by a nurse or physician. Typically, no tests will need to be performed. Always consult with your pediatrician if you feel your child has a blocked or infected tear duct.
Treatment depends on if an infection is present or not.
Infected: will most likely be treated with antibiotics that either come in the form of eye drops or liquid medicine by mouth. Most doctors and nurses also recommend warm compresses to the eye. This helps open up the duct and allows the infection to come out. Massaging the eye can also help for this same reason.
Not Infected: this typically does not need treatment. Most babies tear ducts fully open up by age 6 months and they no longer have issues with blocked tear ducts. In rare instances, a baby will have a chronic issue with blocked tear ducts and they made need to see an ophthalmologist to assist with a procedure to widen the tear duct.
Always consult with your child’s pediatrician if you feel your child has any of these symptoms.
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Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN