Blocked Tear Duct (Dacryostenosis) in Children
What is a blocked tear duct in children?
A blocked tear duct is called
dacryostenosis. It may also be called a congenital lacrimal duct obstruction. Congenital
means that your baby is born with it.
Tears help clean and lubricate your
baby’s eyes. They’re made in the lacrimal gland. This is located under the bone of
eyebrow. Tears from the lacrimal gland go into the eye through tiny ducts along the
eyelid. Tears drain through 2 small openings at the inner corner of the eyelids. They
then drain into a larger passage from the eye to the inside of the nose. This is called
the tear duct (nasolacrimal duct).
What causes a blocked tear duct in a child?
In some babies, the openings into the tear duct don’t form the right way. This causes
a blockage. The tears have no place to drain.
A blocked tear duct can happen in
one or both eyes. The blockage may be there at all times. Or it may come and go.
What are the symptoms of a blocked tear duct in a child?
Babies don’t make tears until they are several weeks old. So you or your baby’s healthcare
provider may not notice a blocked tear duct at birth.
Symptoms can happen a bit differently in each child. They can include:
Tears pooling in the corner of your baby's eye
Tears draining down your baby's eyelid and cheek
Mucus or yellowish discharge in your baby’s eye
Reddening of the skin around your baby’s eye. This is caused by rubbing.
Your baby may only have symptoms when he or she cries. Symptoms may only show up in
cold or windy weather when tears are stimulated.
The symptoms of this health problem
may be like symptoms of other conditions. Have your child see his or her healthcare
provider for a diagnosis.
How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed in a child?
Your child’s healthcare provider may diagnose a blocked tear duct by giving your child
an exam. He or she will also ask you about your child’s health history. Your child
may need more tests to confirm the diagnosis.
How is a blocked tear duct treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is.
The most common treatment for a blocked tear duct is gently milking or massaging the
tear duct 2 to 3 times a day. Your child's healthcare provider will show you how to
What are possible complications of a blocked tear duct in a
Sometimes a blocked tear duct may cause an eye infection. If this happens, your child
may need antibiotics.
Most blocked tear ducts heal on their own. This often happens by the time your child
is 1 year old.
If the duct is still blocked after
your child is 1 year old, he or she may need treatment. Your child’s healthcare provider
may enlarge the tear duct opening with a small probe. Sometimes this treatment needs
be done again. If this doesn’t work, your child may need surgery to fix the duct.
Key points about a blocked tear duct in children
In some babies, the openings
into the tear duct don’t form the right way. This causes a blockage. The tears
have no place to drain.
Babies don’t make tears until they are a few weeks old. Most
blocked tear ducts aren’t noticed at birth.
A blocked tear duct may be noticed
only when a baby cries. It may also show up in cold or windy weather, when tears are
The most common treatment is gently
milking or massaging the tear duct 2 to 3 times per day. In some cases, the tear duct
needs to be opened using a probe. In more severe cases, your child may need
Most blocked tear ducts heal on their
own. This often happens by the time your child is 1 year old.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child.
Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.