Blocked Tear Ducts

Blocked tear ducts, also known by the medical term "nasolacrimal duct obstructions," are very common in children and infants. When a tear duct system hasn’t fully developed, it can lead to blockage, excessive tearing and infection. Many cases of blocked tear ducts clear by themselves during the first year of life.

What are symptoms of blocked tear ducts?

Symptoms of a blockage include an overflow of tears, as well as red, swollen eyelids, and possibly a yellowish-green discharge from a build-up of bacteria in the tears.

How are blocked tear ducts diagnosed and treated?

If the tear duct obstruction does not resolve by itself, one or more of the following treatments may resolve the issue:

  • tear duct massage
  • topical antibiotic eye drops
  • tear duct probing 
  • balloon tear duct dilation
  • tear duct intubation

Sometimes if a blockage is severe, a doctor might recommend tear duct obstruction surgery.

A to Z: Otorrhea

A to Z: Otorrhea

Otorrhea is discharge from the external part of the ear canal.

More to Know

Ear drainage can be serous (thin and watery), sanguineous (containing blood), or purulent (full of pus). It may or may not smell foul.

Vertigo, ear pain, fever, itching, ringing in the ear, and hearing loss are all symptoms that can accompany otorrhea.

Many things can cause fluid to drain from the ear. Most commonly, it occurs with swimmer's ear or when an ear infection leads to a perforated eardrum (with or without middle ear infection). Head injury can cause leaking of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). Head injury is a less common cause of otorrhea, but it is more serious and can be life threatening.

Keep in Mind

Because ear discharge has many origins, it's important to see a doctor to identify the cause so that it can be properly treated.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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Date reviewed: September 26, 2016