A blocked tear duct occurs when the opening (duct) that normally allows tears to drain from the eyes to the nose is obstructed or fails to open properly. If a tear duct remains partially or completely blocked, the tear duct sac fills with fluid, becomes swollen and inflamed, and sometimes gets infected.
Most babies with blocked tear ducts are born without an opening in the thin tissue (membrane) that covers the duct. In adults, several conditions can block the tear ducts, such as a sinus infection or a broken nose.
Usually no treatment is needed for a blocked tear duct in a baby. In time, the duct will open on its own. If the duct does not open, a procedure called probing can be used to open it.
In adults, the type of treatment for a blocked tear duct depends on the cause. A blockage caused by infection may be treated with antibiotics. A blockage caused by a problem with the size or shape of the tear duct may require surgery.
Current as of: July 26, 2016
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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