Almost one third children are born with under-developed tear-duct system. This can lead to blocked tear-ducts, excess tearing and infections. It is fairly common in infants, and more than 90% cases get resolved by the first year with little or no treatment. With the blocks being detected earlier, there are less chances of infection and requirement of surgery.
Causes & Symptoms of Baby Blocked Tear Duct
Baby blocked tear duct can be caused by certain situations, including:
- The failure of the thin tissue at the end of tear duct to open normally.
- Nasal bone growing abnormally that puts pressure on the tear duct and closes it.
- The opening of the tear duct from where tears drain in the corner of the eye is closed or under-developed.
In adults, the blockage can be caused due to injury to the bone around the eye which closes the duct or puts pressure on it. Aging can also cause blockage of the duct. Some other causes are thickening of the lining of the tear duct, presence of abnormal tissue/structure in the nose and complication aroused by surgery on the nose or around areas.
Symptoms of the blocked tear duct are mostly seen only in one eye. Some of them are given below:
- Heavy tearing up of the eye, which can make the eye look wet or cause tears to run down the cheek.
- A white or yellowish build up might be seen in the corner of the eye making the eye lids sticky.
- Infection in the tear duct called Dacryocystitis can cause redness and swelling around the eye and nose.
- Severe infection can affect the eye lids as well. It can cause fever, pain, increase in swelling and redness, appearance of mucus or pus in the eye.
- Upper respiratory tract infection like cold or infection in the sinus can cause the blocked tear duct symptoms to worsen. Environmental factors like wind, cold and sunlight can also worsen the symptoms.
Note: Babies born with blocked tear duct will present with symptoms in the first few days to first few weeks after being born.
When to See a Doctor
You should contact the doctor immediately if:
- The eyelid is very red or very swollen.
- A red lump can be seen at the inner corner of the eyelid.
- Child is looking or acting very sick.
- The cornea looks cloudy.
You should contact the doctor within 24 hours if:
- There is pus in the eye.
- Eyelid is red or swollen.
- You feel the child should be looked at by a doctor.
For the following cases, the doctor need not be called immediately:
- The baby is over 12 months of age.
- Diagnosis has not yet confirmed by a doctor prior to this.
- Any other question or concerns you might have.
How to Diagnose Baby Blocked Tear Duct
If there is a case of repeated infection or irritation in the eye for the child or your own, a doctor should be consulted. Based on the medical history, the doctor might recommend getting some tests done. These tests will determine if excess tears are being produced or there are other underlying causes. Some of the tests are:
- Tear drainage test (pecial dye is put in the eye to check how fast it drains off).
- Eye imaging tests like X-Rays, CT scans, MRI imaging or contrast dye tests, which can detect blockage.
- Probing and irrigating where a slender probe or saline solution is used to check for blockage.
How to Treat Baby Blocked Tear Duct
Home care for a blocked tear duct in babies can be done in the following ways:
- Do not panic: Almost 10% of newborns are affected with blocked tear duct and is quite common. Both sides can be blocked in 30% of the cases. Treatment is not required unless it gets infected.
- Observe the pus formation in the eye: In case there is a lot of pus in the eye or if the eye lids become sticky, it can be due to a secondary infection in the eye. It is common when there is blocked tear duct and clears up in a few days with the administration of antibiotic eye drops or ointment available with prescription from the doctor.
- Removing the pus: Warm water and wet cotton balls should be used to remove the dried and liquid pus several times in a day. This should be especially done before putting the eye drops, or they will not be effective.
- Massaging: Massaging the lacrimal glands which store the tears is recommended by some doctors, while some believe that massage is not required to open the blocked ducts. In case massage is required, the following should be done:
The inner lower corner of the eye has the lacrimal gland and should be massaged to empty the sac of old fluids and check for infection.
A cotton swab can be used to massage instead of using fingers.
Gently pressing the swab in the inner corner and moving upwards will cause clear fluid to come out of the eye.
- Natural course: For 90% the cases, the blocked ducts open up by the time the child is 12 months old. When the duct does not open on its own, a probing procedure is used to open it. It is successful in 80% cases. In rare scenarios, if the blocked tear duct condition is severe, a complex surgery might be required.
More Tips on Baby Blocked Tear Duct
Some important tips are given below:
- Ensure your hands are washed before you touch the baby’s eyes.
- Antibiotic treatment will be required, if there is redness of the eye along with yellow or milky discharge.
- To clean any secretions from the eye, only a clean and damp washcloth should be used. For every wipe, use a clean section to prevent infection.
- The eye should be cleaned from the inner corner to the outer corner to avoid getting any bacteria in the tear duct.
- All instructions regarding the medication or treatment given by the doctor should be followed.
- The doctor should be consulted for any questions or concerns.
A pediatric doctor sharing some professional advice towards baby blocked tear duct: