Baby blocked tear duct is a common condition among infants. Almost all of the cases get better on their own, but some will require some mild treatment. About 20% of all newborns have some sort of a blocked tear duct, according to The American Academy of Ophthalmology. The condition is also known as nasolacrimal obstruction.
Tear glands’ role is to produce tears in humans. They are located on the side furthest from the nose, just above a person’s eyes. Your little one’s tears will drain through the tear ducts directly into the nose. A clogged tear duct infant condition might cause blockages in tear ducts, which prevents proper tear draining.
Our eyelashes and eyelids are a very important part of our bodies. Viruses, bacteria, dust, and other things that could cause damage to our eyes are constantly present in the air and around us. Eyelids and eyelashes are there to prevent those harmful things to do damage. Also, the lashes and lids are very helpful because they help to moisturize our eyes constantly. The corneas can’t work properly without moisture – they would just dry out and would become injured and cloudy.
The protective system of ducts and glands is also known as the lacrimal system. It works together with our lashes and lids to keep eyes from drying out. You probably noticed small glands on the edge of your eyelids sometime in your life. This part of the body is producing an oily film which later mixes with the tears’ liquid part and keeps them from evaporating.
The watery part of tears is produced by the lacrimal glands. These tear-producing glands are located behind our upper eyelids just under the brow bone, in the lids, and at the edge of the eye socket.
Tears are moved across the eyes thanks to eyelids. Tears contain antibodies that are very useful against any kind of infections, and they also lubricate and clean our eyes. We have two openings on each of of the lower and upper lids. They are called lacrimal ducts, or puncta. The tears drain through them.
From there, tears will then enter small tubes usually called ducts or canaliculi. These tubes are located at the inner corner of our eyelids. The tears will then continue into the lacrimal sac. This part of the body is located right next to our eyes’ inner corner.
Tears will pass through the lacrimal sacs and go directly to the nasolacrimal duct. They will drain into the back of the nose from there. It might sound strange, but this is the reason why your nose gets runny when you are crying. There are excess tears produced and the additional flow is too much for your nose to handle. The lacrimal sacs are getting compressed when you blink. This motion will force the tears of the lacrimal sacs directly into the nasolacrimal duct.
The lacrimal ducts and the nasolacrimal duct is what people usually refer to as tear ducts. Clogged tear duct infant condition is usually linked to the nasolacrimal duct and it results in a baby blocked tear duct.
Blocked Tear Duct Symptoms
Clogged tear duct infant condition will usually develop until the baby is about 12 weeks old. You have to pay attention because you might not be able to notice any problems until an eye is already infected. Excessive tearing is a very common sign of a baby blocked tear duct and you might notice it even when your little one is not crying. This condition is called epiphora. Pus in the eye’s corner is also a good sign of a blocked tear duct. Also, if you notice that your baby has a crust in the eyelashes or over the eyelid when it wakes up make sure you consult with your child’s pediatrician.
A common lacrimal sac infection that babies with a blocked tear duct are called dacryocystitis. Some of the symptoms for this condition are swelling, bumps, and tenderness at the side of your baby’s nose. Some infants might develop redness at the inner corner of the eye.
Some newborns already have a developed cyst in the lacrimal sac when they are born. This may cause a swollen blue bump that is located very close to the inside corner of your baby’s eye. The condition is called dacryocystocele.
This condition can sometimes be treated at home with careful observation and firm massage since it doesn’t always lead to infection. However, it is recommended to consult with your baby’s pediatrician to get the proper treatment. A doctor will usually prescribe topical antibiotics if the condition becomes infected. However, there are certain cases where babies get intravenous antibiotics to treat the infection. This is usually followed by a surgical procedure.
What Causes Blocked Tear Duct?
There are numerous reasons why a baby can experience a blocked tear duct condition. An underdeveloped tear duct system is usually the number one cause for most of the blockages. This can then lead to different, more or less serious issues, such as:
- Very narrow tear ducts
- Underdeveloped eyelid openings (punta)
- Improper opening of the valve at the end of the tear duct
Some causes are less common, but you also need to know about them so you know to recognize any potential alerting symptoms:
- Nasal polyps
- Tumors or cysts
- Tears that can’t flow into the nose due to the blocking by the nasal bone
- Swelling in the face caused by an infection
Treating Blocked Tear Duct
Usually, a baby blocked tear duct will resolve on its own during the first year of your baby’s life. No treatment will be required in most cases. This is why doctors usually recommend conservative methods for treating clogged tear duct infant condition. These methods are useful and able to clear the tear ducts in most cases.
Usually, pediatricians will recommend massaging your baby’s tear sac. Doing this should force the fluid through the tear ducts and the blockages should be removed in no time. Consult with your baby’s pediatrician to understand what is the best way to massage your baby and how frequent should you be doing it.
Doctors sometimes also prescribe eye drops with an antibiotic in them. This will happen only if the doctor notices that your child’s discharge production is abnormal. However, the underlying problem won’t be fixed and you will still have to try other treatments.
There are some cases when conservative methods are not working and the tear duct just won’t unblock. This is when doctors usually are forced to use different, more invasive treatment methods.
Surgical probing is the most common approach. To remove the obstruction, a doctor needs to insert a medical instrument into the tear duct of an infant. Surgical probing is usually done directly in baby pediatrician’s office and won’t require anesthesia for babies younger than 6 months. Children slightly older than this will have to be under general anesthesia and the procedure will be done in an operating room.
The procedure itself has about an 80% success rate and it takes only about 10 minutes.
Additional treatment options will have to be done if surgical probing is not able to resolve the problem. Some of these options are:
- Nasal endoscopy which will remove the cysts from your baby’s tear duct
- Widening the tear ducts using a balloon catheter
- Keeping the ducts open with stents
- Establishing a new opening into the nasal cavity via surgery. However, this is more common in adults than in children
- Nasal cavity structure altering to promote drainage
Your baby’s symptoms will start improving about 7 days after any of these procedures. So, be patient and don’t worry too much.
Cloth Ball Cleaning
You can clean the dried discharge and crusty matter from your baby’s eyes with a soft cloth ball. A cloth ball is usually the best option, but you can use a cotton one too. Just soak it in warm water and gently rub your baby’s eyes to remove the discharge.
Keep in mind that you have to do this if the pediatrician prescribed antibiotic eye drops for your baby’s condition. Don’t forget that you should always be wiping your baby’s eyes from the inside towards the outside. Start near the nose and continue outward. Try changing a cotton ball when you are done with one eye and when you’re starting with the other. This will reduce the chances of infection.
Doctors will recommend a massage as a home treatment for a blocked tear duct in most cases. Your baby’s doctor or an ophthalmologist can explain to you how to properly massage your child to open up the tear duct.
The best way to massage your baby’s tear ducts is to use 10 strokes 2 times per day, according to The American Academy of Ophthalmology. Doctors usually recommend this to be done while you are changing your baby’s diapers
It is also recommended not to use your fingers for the massage. Instead, try using a cotton swab. The swab has a smaller size than your fingers and it will be easier, and safer, for you to target the tear sac.
When to Contact a Doctor?
You should take your child to a full eye examination if it is younger than 6 months, according to the American Optometric Association. This should be done even if you don’t notice any particular problems. It is recommended to consult with a doctor right away when you notice changes in your baby’s eyes healthy.
A blocked tear duct can be properly treated in infants with conservative methods mentioned above. Following the given rules may reduce the risks of infection, but you have to make sure that your child is carefully examined by a doctor too.
Baby Planet Overview
A blocked tear duct is a common problem a lot of parents have to deal with. There are different solutions to the condition, so you don’t have to worry too much. The best way is to try out different conservative methods and home remedies until you take your child to doctor for a professional examination. Don’t panic if a doctor decides there’s a need for a surgical intervention since the surgical probing is very successful and helpful!
- Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov