What is blocked tear duct?
A blocked tear duct is when the eye’s drainage system for tears is either partially or completely obstructed. Tears cannot drain normally, causing a watery, irritated or chronically infected eye. A blocked tear duct is almost always correctable. Treatment depends on the cause of the blockage and the age of the affected person.
How common is blocked tear duct?
This blocked tear duct is relatively common in newborn. In adults, the tear duct obstruction can result from an eye infection, swelling, injury or a tumor. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of blocked tear duct?
The common symptoms of blocked tear duct are:
- Excessive tearing
- Redness of the white part of the eye
- Painful swelling near the inside corner of the eye
- Crusting of the eyelids
- Mucus discharge
- Blurred vision
When tear ducts are blocked, trapped bacteria in the nasolacrimal sac can lead to infection. Symptoms of infection include:
- Inflammation (swelling), tenderness and redness of the inside corner of the eye or around the eye and nose
- Eye mucus discharge
- Crusty eyelashes
- Blurred vision
- Blood-tinged tears
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Tearing constantly for several days
- Your eye is repeatedly or continually infected
What causes blocked tear duct?
A blocked tear duct can be caused by:
- Congenital blockage. In newborns, a blocked tear duct may be the result of that membrane not opening as it should at birth.
- Age-related changes. In older adults, the tiny openings that drain tears (puncta) may get narrower, causing blockage.
- Infection or inflammation. Chronic infection or inflammation of your eyes, tear drainage system or nose can cause your tear ducts to become blocked. Chronic sinusitis may irritate the tissues and form scars, which block the tear duct system.
- Nose trauma, such as a broken nose, scar tissue can block the tear duct.
- Tumor, which may press on the tear duct system and prevent drainage.
- Chemotherapy medication and radiation treatment for cancer, which can cause blocked tear duct as a possible side effect.
What increases my risk for blocked tear duct?
There are many risk factors for blocked tear duct, such as:
- Age and sex. Older women are at highest risk of blocked tear ducts because of age-related changes.
- Chronic eye inflammation.
- Previous surgery, such as eye, eyelid, nasal or sinus.
- If you’ve used anti-glaucoma medications, you’re at higher risk of developing a blocked tear duct.
- Chemotherapy medication and radiation treatment for cancer.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is blocked tear duct diagnosed?
To diagnosis a blocked tear duct, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes to check for other possible causes and do a number of tests.
The following tests can be used to diagnose a blocked tear duct:
- Tear drainage test. This test measures how quickly your tears are draining.
- Irrigation and probing. Your doctor may flush a saline solution through your tear drainage system to check how well it’s draining.
- Eye imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI. These procedures are taken to find the location and cause of the blockage.
How is blocked tear duct treated?
Your treatment depends on the cause of blocked tear duct. Sometimes, more than one treatment is needed for a blocked tear duct. These treatments include:
- If your doctor suspects an infection is present, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or pills.
- Apply tear duct massage. To help open the tear duct for babies, ask a doctor to demonstrate how to do tear duct massage. Essentially, you can apply gentle pressure between the ducts, alongside of the upper nose to try to help them clear.
- If you’ve had a facial injury that caused blocked tear ducts, your doctor may suggest waiting a few months to see if the condition improves as your injury heals.
- Dilation, probing and flushing. For infants and toddlers whose blocked tear ducts aren’t opening on their own, or for adults who have a partially blocked duct, a technique using dilation, probing and irrigation may be used.
- Balloon catheter dilation. If other treatments haven’t worked or the blockage returns, this procedure may be used. It’s usually effective for infants and toddlers, and may also be used in adults with partial blockage.
- Stenting or intubation. This procedure is usually done using general anesthesia.
- Surgery that is used to treat blocked tear ducts is called dacryocystorhinostomy. This procedure opens the passageway for tears to drain out your nose again.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage blocked tear duct?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with blocked tear duct:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- Try not to rub your eyes.
- Never smoke around your baby because smoke, aside from other dangerous health hazards, can irritate your baby’s nasal passages and make the blockage worse.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Blocked tear duct. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/blocked-tear-duct/home/ovc-20183590 Accessed December 31, 2016
Blocked tear duct. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-blocked-tear-duct Accessed December 31, 2016
At-Home Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Babies. http://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/baby-blocked-tear-duct#2 Accessed December 31, 2016
Review Date: August 8, 2017 | Last Modified: August 9, 2017