Medical Conditions
   Abdominal Pain, Recurrent
   Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
   Acute Otitis Media
   Acute Strep Throat
   Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
   Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
   Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
   Breast Enlargement, Premature
   Breath-Holding Spells
   Care of the Premature Infant
   Celiac Disease
   Chickenpox Immunization
   Coarctation of the Aorta
   Congenital Hip Dysplasia
   Coxsackie A16
   Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)
   Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip
   Diabetic Mother, Infant of
   Ear Infection
   Eating Disorders
   Enlarged Lymph Nodes
   Erythema Multiforme
   Eye Problems Related to Headache
   Febrile Seizure
   Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
   Fifth Disease (Erythema Infectiosum)
   Food Born Illnesses
   Fragile X Syndrome
   Gastroenteritis, Viral
   Gastroesophageal Reflux
   Hand Foot and Mouth
   Head Lice
   Headache Related to Eye Problems
   Hepatitis A
   Hepatitis A Immunization
   Hepatitis B
   Hepatitis B Immunization
   Hepatitis C
   Hib Immunization
   High Blood Pressure
   Infant of a Diabetic Mother
   Infectious Mononucleosis
   Influenza Immunization
   Kawasaki Syndrome
   Language Development in Young Children
   Lead Poisoning
   Lung Hypoplasia
   Lyme Disease
   Mental Health
   MMR Immunization
   Obesity in Childhood
   Otitis Media, Acute
   Pneumococcal Conjugate Immunization
   Polio Immunization
   Premature Thelarche
   Prematurity, Retinopathy of
   Pulmonary Hypertension
   Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH & SPH)
   Retinopathy of Prematurity
   Rheumatic Fever, Acute
   Ringworm (Tinea)
   Rubella (German Measles)
   Separation Anxiety
   Speech Development in Young Children
   Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
   Strep Throat-Acute
   Strep Throat-Recurrent
   Stuttering and the Young Child
   Swine Flu
   Swine Flu (H1N1) FAQ
   Swine Flu (H1N1) Vaccine
   Swollen Glands
   Tear Duct, Blocked
   Tetralogy of Fallot
   Thyroid Problems
   Tinea (ringworm infection)
   Toxic Shock Syndrome
   Turner Syndrome
   Underdeveloped Lungs
   Urinary Tract Infection
   Varicella or Chickenpox
   Varivax Immunization
   Vesicoureteral Reflux
   Wilson Disease
New Parents
Special Needs
Web Links
What's Going Around?
Visual Symptom Checker


Medical Conditions

Tear Duct, Blocked

What is a Blocked Tear Duct?

When an obstruction occurs in the duct system which carries tears away from the surface of the eye to the nose, it is called a blocked tear duct or nasolacrimal duct obstruction.


What Causes a Blocked Tear Duct?

Tears are produced in the lacrimal gland located above the lateral aspect of the eye. These tears are secreted and travel across the cornea, exiting via the superior and inferior puncta (holes) on the inner (medial) corner of the eye. Usually, a small tube called the nasolacriminal duct drains the tears from the surface of the eye into the nose. This duct is usually developed by birth but up to 1% to 5% of the population may have a duct that is incompletely developed or obstructed. The nasolacrimal duct has three valves in it and the majority of nasolacrimal duct obstructions occur at the most distal valve that is located in the nose (Hasner's Valve).

Who gets a Blocked Tear Duct?

Babies begin to produce tears at two days to two weeks after birth. You may notice excessive tearing from one or both of your infants' eyes during this time. Rarely, adults get a blocked tear duct because of an infection, an injury, or a tumor.

What are the Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct?

The main symptom of a blocked tear duct is increased or excessive tearing.

How is a Blocked Tear Duct Diagnosed?

A blocked tear duct is diagnosed after a standard eye exam or an internal examination of the nose. If necessary, the drainage of the tears can be tracked by an eye stain.

How is a Blocked Tear Duct Treated?

Nearly half of the cases of nasolacrimal duct obstruction will resolve spontaneously by 6 months of age. A pediatric ophthalmologist may need to probe your childs eye between 6 to 12 months of age to help open up the obstruction. In rare circumstances, the probing does not fix the problem completely and a silicone stint may have to be placed in the nasolacrimal duct for 1 to 3 months to help keep the duct open.

In the meantime, your health care provider may choose to prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment if your child has persistent yellow drainage from the eye. Some health care providers recommend a massage technique to try to unblock the duct. Two methods have been recommended. You may place a washed finger between the nose and the inner corner of the eye. Massage downward (inferiorly) in an attempt to push the tears through the nasolacrimal duct via its normal path. Another recommendation calls for a superior motion in the same location, pushing the tears out of the duct. You should do this procedure at every other feeding for a newborn.

What are the Complications of a Blocked Tear Duct?

A blocked tear duct can cause a significantly higher amount of eye infections resulting in yellow discharge from the eye. These infections can be treated by antibiotic eye drops or ointment.

Rarely, your child may develop a bluish swelling on the skin between the nose and the inner corner of the eye(an amniotecele). Massage may be attempted. However, if the swollen area becomes red and inflamed, you should contact your health care provider immediately for an abscess may be developing which requires IV antibiotics and probing.


Nelson LB, Calhoun LJ, Menduke H. Medical Management of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Pediatrics 76: 173 1985

Wright, KW. Pediatric Ophthalmology for Primary Care, 2003, American Academy of Pediatrics

Reviewed by: Evan Taragano MD

This Article contains the comments, views and opinions of the Author at the time of its writing and may not necessarily reflect the views of Pediatric Web, Inc., its officers, directors, affiliates or agents. No claim is made by Pediatric Web, the Author, or the Authors medical practice regarding the effectiveness and reliability of the statements contained herein and such individuals and entities disclaim any and all liability for the comments and statements contained in this Article and for any use or misuse of the statements made in this article in any specific medical situations. Further, this Article is intended to be general in nature and shall not be considered medical advice. The statements made are not to be utilized to diagnose and/or treat any individuals medical symptoms. If you or someone you know has symptoms which you believe are similar to this Article, you should discuss such symptoms with your personal physician or other qualified medical practitioner.

Copyright 2012 Pediatric Web, Inc., by Dan Feiten, M.D. All Rights Reserved

Health Center

Select from over 100 symptoms to learn about managing your child's illness.