What is a blocked tear duct?
A Blocked tear duct is a common condition causing sticky eyes in infants and toddlers. Eyes tend to produce a sticky fluid that keeps accumulating in the eyelids. The tears that lubricate our eyes cannot drain normally out through the nose in babies and gather on the surface of the eyes. There is a tiny opening at the inner corner of each eyelid, which opens into a passage inside the nose. This is the opening of the nasolacrimal duct. The tears that moisten and keep the eyes clean drain from this opening into the nose. In many newborns, this tear duct is blocked or not completely formed. A child can have tear duct problems in one or both the eyes. About 25% babies are born with complete or partially blocked tear eye ducts in one or both the eyes.
What are some of the blocked tear duct symptoms?
Blocked tear duct symptoms are easy to recognize. Newborn babies do not produce tears until they are a few weeks old. So, a clogged eye duct is not noticed at birth. Blocked tear duct symptoms are generally noticed when the baby is about 2 weeks old. Some of the common symptoms include the following:
- Watery and wet eyes
- Pool of tears forming at the corner of the baby's eyes
- Tears flowing down the baby's cheeks from the eyes
- A whitish-yellowish discharge may be present near one or both eyes.
- Crusting and thickening of the yellow discharge, especially when the baby is sleeping
- Sticky eyes which are difficult to open after waking up from a long sleep.
Taking care of the eyes when your baby has a blocked tear duct
Gently wipe the baby's eyes with a cotton ball dipped in warm water or a sterile saline solution to remove the discharge built up during the night. Clean your baby's eyes regularly until the tear ducts open up fully.
Traditional remedies recommend putting a few drops of breast milk in the baby's eyes to prevent eye infection.
Diagnosis of tear duct obstruction
A doctor diagnoses a tear duct obstruction during a physical examination. He may also conduct one or more tests to confirm this diagnosis, and take a complete medical history of the child.
What are the different treatments for a clogged tear duct?
- Clogged tear duct treatment differs from child to child. Many times the doctor may simply suggest waiting for some time for the tear duct to open naturally.
- Your doctor may recommend a special massage technique to facilitate the opening up of the lacrimal duct. This massage puts gentle pressure on the blocked eye duct on the nose bridge, which helps it to pop open. A gentle pressure on the corner of the eyes near the nose with the fingertips, several times a day, helps to unblock the blocked eye duct.
- If there is an infection, then the doctor may prescribe certain eye-drops or ointments to cure it.
- Sometimes, the tear duct plugs up due to an external injury. In this case, doctors generally recommend waiting for a few months for the duct to open naturally.
- When the lacrimal duct fails to open by non-invasive means, then the doctor may consider a surgery. The nature of surgery depends on the extent of blockage. Though surgery is usually avoided for babies and toddlers, it is an effective clogged tear duct treatment. It is used as the last option when all other treatment options have failed.
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Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.