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Blocked Tear Duct in Babies: Symptoms and Treatment

Blocked Tear Duct in Babies: Symptoms and Treatment

Eye Problems


The tear duct also referred to as the nasolacrimal duct, is a small passage running from the inner corner of the eyelids to the interior portion of the nose. The eye constantly produces tears and mucus, which the tear duct drains away.

Blocked tear ducts, medically termed nasolacrimal duct obstruction, are a relatively common condition in newborn infants. It is estimated that around 5-10% of babies are born with a clogged tear duct in one or both eyes. It is caused by a complete or partial blockage in the tear drainage system.

What is a blocked tear duct in babies?

When children have a blocked tear duct, their tears can't drain normally. It can cause sticky, irritated, or watery eyes. However, remember that this is not a life-threatening situation, and the problem does not damage your baby's vision. In most babies, this condition clears by itself within the first one or two years.

Meanwhile, there are several methods you can try at home which may help clear up the blocked tear ducts. For example, you can use a warm compress every now and then when the drainage builds up. For this, warm up a soft and clean cotton ball or washcloth with water and clean your baby's tear duct. You could also do a tear duct massage to open and empty it. Your doctor can guide you on how to do it.

What are the key signs and symptoms of a blocked tear duct?

Often, the symptoms of a blocked tear duct are misunderstood as an eye infection like pink eye. The major signs of a blocked tear duct typically begin during the initial days or weeks of a newborn's life. The main symptoms associated with a blocked tear duct include:

  • Swollen or red eyelids
  • Constant tears
  • Green-yellow discharge
  • Eyelids sticking together

One important point to note here is that the eye will not turn red as in conjunctivitis, which might need antibiotic treatment. The discharge consists of normal bacteria and tears, and there will be no signs of an infection. Keep in mind that all of us, not only babies, have natural bacteria on our eyelids. These are usually flushed away by our tears.

However, when the tear duct system is clogged, the bacteria stay on the eyelid as it has nowhere to go. This may cause an infection if not detected early. So, watch your baby for symptoms such as redness or swelling and discharge that are getting worse. In such a case, it's best to have your eye doctor examine your baby for a blocked tear duct. This will be helpful to find whether your baby's eyes are infected or not and will also help decide a treatment plan for the same.

What treatment is needed?

While caring for your baby's blocked tear duct, the main thing you should remember is to keep the skin dry and clean using clean water and cotton wool. In case the skin becomes sore, you can apply Vaseline to clean and protect the dry skin.

You can also try blocked tear duct baby massage. This is done by applying steady pressure to the inner corner of the baby's eyelids many times per day, which can help clear the blockage. Make sure you apply gentle pressure only while doing the massage. Also, remember that blocked tear ducts require no eye drops unless the eye itself is very red.

Reference: At-Home Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Babies

When should an operation be done for a blocked tear duct?

In most babies, a blocked tear duct improves by itself after the first year. As the symptoms will surely improve with time, our suggestion is to wait a little more before choosing to operate your baby's tear duct. In case the symptoms are persisting, your baby might need a probing of the tear duct. This is usually done under general anesthesia. Remember that your baby's tear duct might need surgery if all other treatment methods fail.

If you are looking for an eye hospital in Kolkata to treat your baby's blocked tear duct, we can help you. We are one of the leading eye hospitals in Kolkata, which provides expert treatment regarding all your eye problems. You can call us or schedule an appointment with us online today.



The mission of Netralayam is to provide tertiary level superspeciality eye care service of highest quality to all sections of the society through a team of competent, committed and compassionate professionals in a patient-friendly environment.

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