Blocked tear ducts


A partial or a total obstruction in the tear drain duct system results in watery and irritated eyes. Nearly 20% of newborns have blocked ducts which are present at birth, but usually get corrected within one year on their own. Adults may get blocked tear duct condition due to a number of reasons such as infection, injury or inflammation of the eyes or due to the presence of a tumor.

The treatment for a blocked duct depends on the cause of the blockage and the age of the affected person.

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Symptoms of blocked tear ducts

The following are the symptoms of blocked tear ducts:

  • Persistent inflammation of the eye, for e.g. conjunctivitis
  • Persistent infections of the eye
  • Increased tearing of the eyes
  • Swelling in inside corner of eye that causes pain
  • Discharge of mucus from the Eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Blood in tears
  • Blurred vision

Causes of blocked tear ducts

The tears from the lacrimal glands pour down the eye surface and protect by lubricating it, and drain out through tiny holes called puncta, located in the corner of the eyelids. The tears pass through the tiny canals in the lids to a sac, which is connected to the nose via a duct. Here it is reabsorbed or get evaporated. Blockage at any area of the tear drainage system, from puncta to the nose, causes watery eyes and increases the risk of getting infections and inflammation.

One may have the blocked tear ducts from birth (congenital causes), or it may also occur at any age. Some of the causes of blocked tear ducts are:

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  • Congenital blockage.
  • Chronic inflammation and infection of eye.
  • Abnormal development of face and the skull.
  • Age related disorders.
  • Formation of cysts or stones in tear drainage system.
  • Facial injuries or trauma.
  • Growth of tumor along the tear drainage system.
  • ┬áLong term use of topical medications.
  • Other medicinal side effects, such as the use of chemotherapy medication known as docetaxel.

Treatment of blocked tear ducts

The right treatment depends on the correct diagnosis of blocked tear ducts.

  • For infection, antibiotics are prescribed.
  • If it is due to tumor, surgery is performed or medication is given to shrink the tumor.

In non tumor cases, the conventional methods are followed. Blocked tear duct which are congenital or due to injury are given some time to correct on its own. If there is no self correction even after the lapse of few months, doctor may advise about the further course of action, including the surgical option.

  • Balloon catheter dilation: The drainage system blocked due to inflammation, scarring and other present disorders are opened up by this procedure.
  • Intubation or stenting: Under this procedure, polyurethane tubes or a small silicone are used to clear blockages in the drainage system. Such tubes are removed after four months.
  • For infant congenital blocked tear duct, after the waiting period, the doctor may adopt dilation, probing and irrigation techniques. The doctor may enlarge the punctal holes by a special dilation equipment, and a small probe is inserted via the puncta into the tear removal system. Then the probe is taken out and the drainage system is washed with saline solution to remove any blockage that is remaining. If the procedure does not help, surgery may be performed.
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