A tear duct is a small tube that drains tears from the eyes. Tears are made in
glands under the eyelids. They wash over the eyes to keep them moist and clean. Then,
they drain though the tear ducts. When a tear duct is blocked (a blockage), the tears
Many babies are born with a tear-duct blockage. Blocked tear ducts in babies usually
clear up with little or no treatment by the time a child is 1 year old.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Tear-Duct Blockage?
A child with a blocked tear duct may have:
more tearing than usual (even when the child isn't crying)
dried crusting on the eyelashes
mild redness or irritation of the eyes or eyelids (from the child rubbing them)
Babies with blocked tear ducts usually show symptoms between birth and 12 weeks
of age. But sometimes the problem doesn't show up until the tear duct gets infected.
An infection can happen when germs
grow inside the blocked duct. Signs of an infected tear duct include:
yellow or green mucus draining from the eye
a swollen eyelid
What Causes a Tear-Duct Blockage?
Babies often get blocked tear ducts when the tear-duct system is not fully developed.
A baby may have:
a tear duct that is too narrow
a web of tissue that blocks the duct
Older kids get blocked tear ducts less often. When they do, the cause may be:
The doctor will do an exam and ask about symptoms. Sometimes they do a painless
test using a dye to see if the tear duct is draining well.
How Is a Tear-Duct Blockage Treated?
Often a blocked tear duct clears up on its own, especially in babies under 6 months
If your child has a blocked tear duct, your doctor may show you how to massage
the eye several times a day at home for a few months. Massaging can help open the
The doctor may recommend that your child go to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor)
if a tear duct doesn't open on its own or if your child keeps getting infections.
The ophthalmologist will do an eye exam to rule out other problems and, if needed,
can clear the blockage.