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Blocked Tear Ducts (Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction)

Proper tear production and drainage is essential to eye health. Blocked tear ducts are common in infants and affect up to 10% of babies at birth.1 Blocked tear ducts will often resolve on their own, but accurate diagnosis and monitoring is important because pediatric tear duct blockages can lead to more serious problems. A pediatric eye doctor, like Dr. Lucas Bonafede, will be able to explain your treatment options in order to protect your baby’s eye health and vision. At Fraser Eye Care, Dr. Bonafede has experience in diagnosing and treating blocked tear ducts.

What is a Tear Duct Blockage?

Tear ducts, also called nasolacrimal ducts, are small tubes that run from the inner corner of the eye to the nose to allow tears to drain. A blocked tear duct occurs when something is blocking or obstructing this tube and preventing tears from draining properly. This can lead to an infection called dacryocystitis or secondary eye issues such as amblyopia. Blocked tear ducts can affect one or both eyes.

Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct

  • Watery eyes
  • Excessive pooling of tears
  • Eye discharge
  • Redness or swelling around the eyes

What Causes Blocked Tear Ducts?

Blocked tear ducts are often congenital, meaning they are present at birth. Congenital tear duct blockages may be due to underdevelopment or a narrow tear duct, but the most common cause is a membrane covering on the end of the tear duct that is called the valve of Hasner.2

How Are Blocked Tear Ducts Treated?

If your baby is diagnosed with a blocked tear duct, you may be advised to postpone treatment because this condition can resolve on its own. It can be helpful to have guidance from an experienced pediatric eye doctor such as Dr. Bonafede so you know when it is the right time to explore treatment options. In many cases, he will advise conservative and non-invasive treatment options such as ocular massage. However, if the blocked tear duct does not resolve on its own or if it causes recurring infections, treatment options include:

  • Using a specialized probing instrument
  • Inserting small tubes to dilate the tear duct
  • A balloon catheter procedure

Contact Us

If you are seeking pediatric eye care for a blocked tear duct or other childhood eye conditions, we can help. Contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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Trused Source Icon - Checkbox Sources

1 American Academy of Pediatrics. Tear Duct – Blocked. Available: healthychildren.org. Accessed August 24, 2021.

2 American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus. Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction. Available: https://aapos.org/glossary/nasolacrimal-duct-obstruction Accessed August 24, 2021

Dr. Lucas Bonafede has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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