Blocked Tear Duct in Babies

Baby eyes

From yellow discharge to eye infections, blocked tear ducts cause discomfort to babies and worry to parents. Tears cannot drain properly when the duct is blocked, and the duct ends up swelling or getting infected. Keep reading to learn more about blocked tear duct in babies.

What is a Blocked Tear Duct?

A blocked tear duct is a condition when the tear duct (where tears drain through a small tube in the eyes) gets blocked or doesn’t open up properly. Blocked tear ducts usually reveal themselves during the first two weeks after the baby is born, when the baby starts getting “watery” eyes. A yellow or white discharge often accompanies them, and sometimes this discharge ends up sealing the eyelids shut too.

How Common is it in Babies?

Almost 6 out of 100 newborns are affected by blocked tear ducts after birth. They may occur during the baby’s birth year and may not cause any eye problems when they first appear as well.

Causes of Blocked Tear Duct

The common causes of a blocked tear duct in infants are-

  • When the tissue at the end of the tear duct is not able to open up
  • Eye infections
  • When the nasal bone grows abnormally, thus putting pressure on the tear duct and sealing it off
  • Partial or underdeveloped openings near the corners of the eyes where the tears drain out

Signs and Symptoms of Baby Blocked Tear Duct

Symptoms of a blocked tear duct usually appear during the first few days to weeks after being born.

  • Yellow or white discharge from the corners of the eyes
  • Redness and swelling of the eyes
  • “Watery” eyes
  • Tears streaming down the cheek
  • Epiphora (excessive tearing)
  • Tenderness or a bump near the side of the nose
  • Swollen blue bump near the inside corner of the eyes (also known as dacryocystocele)
  • Eye infections accompanied by fever, mucus or pus in the eyes

Diagnosis and Tests

Most blocked tear duct conditions in babies resolve naturally with time. However, sometimes a little bit of testing and diagnosis never hurts to cross-check if it spurs from underlying causes. The following three tests are used for diagnosing a blocked tear duct –

  1. Tear Drainage Test– A special dye is applied to your child’s eyes to check whether or not tears drain correctly. If the duct has anything that is blocking its path, then the dye remains on the eye’s surface even after 5 minutes pass.
  2. X-Ray Exam – An X-ray or CT scan of the dacryocystogram (tear duct area) is done to check for blocked tear ducts. It is followed up with an MRI to image the location of the blockage and identify its causes.
  3. Medical Evaluation – Your doctor may evaluate your medical history to ascertain whether tear duct blockages run in the family. A physical examination and an ophthalmic examination are done to check for other plausible reasons for blockage.

Baby with doctor

How to Treat a Blocked Tear Duct in Your Child?

Blocked tear ducts usually open up on their own. Meanwhile, here are 6 treatments you can try to help them open up and get those tears draining-

1. Surgical Probing – Surgical probing is a procedure done at the hospital to manually open up the tear ducts through surgery. It’s done on an outpatient basis, and your ophthalmologist will recommend it if your baby has a severe infection and must be admitted to the hospital. The procedure lasts for about 10 minutes.

2. Silicone Tube Intubation – Silicon tubes are inserted into tear ducts to stretch and open them up. The tubes are kept in place for 6 months and surgically removed afterwards.

3. Balloon Catheter Dilation (DCP) – A balloon is placed into the tear duct by insertion through the corner of the eyes and inflated using a sterile solution to expand the tear duct openings. It is afterwards deflated and removed from the eyes.

4. Antibiotic Eye Drops – If an infection spreads, your baby’s paediatrician may prescribe your little one some antibiotic eye drops or eye ointment. These drops or ointments aid in clearing up infections and eliminate harmful bacteria from blocked tear ducts.

5. Chinese Medicine – Chinese medicines are useful and effective for treating conjunctivitis or “pink eye” conditions. Herbs like Ju Hua also treat allergy-related tear duct conditions.

6. Aloe – Use a little amount of aloe from the inside of an aloe leaf and rub that gently on both the eyelids to reduce swelling and redness.

Home Remedies for Baby’s Blocked Tear Duct

Home remedies work just as well as surgical treatment. Try these before you consider surgical procedures for your little one-

1. Breast Milk – Apply a few drops of breast milk to treat blocked tear ducts in your little one’s eyes and watch them recover gradually.

2. Tear Duct Massage – Ask your doctor to demonstrate how to do a massage to help your baby’s blocked tear duct and be gentle. Basically, you apply gentle pressure between the tear ducts along the upper nose area to aid in clearing up the ducts. This can be done up to two times a day, every day.

3. Warm Compress – Take a soft, clean washcloth and dip it in warm water. Gently wipe the insides of the duct and work your way outward so that particles don’t enter the eye. If both your baby’s ducts are blocked, you must use another clean washcloth or a cotton ball to repeat the process.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Here are some ways you can prevent your baby’s tear duct from facing blockage in the first place-

  • Wash your hands– Before and after cleaning their eyes, make sure to wash your hands and maintain hygiene.
  • Massage regularly – You don’t need to massage your baby’s tear ducts only when there’s a blocked tear duct. By massaging from the start, you’ll prevent those tear ducts from clogging beforehand.
  • Environmental Factors – Reduce exposure to sunlight, cold, and wind for your infant to prevent tear duct blockage.
  • Wipe Their Eyes – Use small cotton balls or a clean cloth to wipe away any excess drainage from your baby’s eyes regularly, especially the outer parts.

A blocked tear duct is nothing serious or extreme to worry about. It happens to many babies and the above remedies will certainly come in handy. Try these out and watch them heal soon!

Also Read: Remedies for Pink Eyes in Babies