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.

First Aid: Eye Injuries

First Aid

Most eye injuries are minor, like getting soap in the eye or a speck of dirt under the eyelid. Others, like those that happen during sports activities, can be serious and require medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

  • redness
  • stinging or burning
  • watering
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurred vision
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • discoloration around the eye

What to Do

If you think your child has a particle in the eye or a minor irritation, be sure to:

  • Wash your hands before touching the eye area.
  • Flush the eye with water as soon as possible:
    • Tilt the child's head over a basin or sink with the affected eye pointed down.
    • Gently pull down the lower lid.
    • Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye.
  • Flush the eye for up to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to see if the foreign body has been flushed out.

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child Has:

  • been struck in the eye with a ball or other object
  • a red or irritated eye
  • eye discomfort
  • a swollen, red, or painful area around the eye or eyelid
  • an eye that's very sensitive to light

Seek Emergency Care Immediately

If Your Child Has:

  • trouble seeing
  • been exposed to chemicals
  • something embedded in the eye
  • severe eye pain
  • blood in the eye
  • nausea or vomiting after an eye injury

Think Prevention!

Kids who play sports should wear protective goggles or unbreakable glasses as needed. Keep chemicals and other potentially dangerous objects out of the reach of children.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 26, 2016