Tear Duct, Blocked: Brief Version
What is a blocked tear duct?
Tears from the eye normally drain into the nose through the tear duct. If this duct is blocked, the tears spill over on the cheeks, even when a baby is not crying. This happens often in very young babies. Most of the time, only one tear duct is blocked.
Your baby may have a blocked tear duct when:
- One eye is always watery.
- Tears run down the face even when your baby does not cry.
- When your baby cries, the nostril on the blocked side is still dry.
- The eye on the blocked side is not red, and the eyelid is not swollen.
- The problem usually starts before your child is 1 month old.
How can I take care of my child?
Most of the time, the tear duct will open by itself. Your doctor may tell you to massage the tear duct. To do this:
- Wash your hands.
- Start at the inner corner of the eye.
- Gently rub the inner, lower corner of your baby's eye with a clean cotton swab.
- Gently press upward. A small amount of clear fluid should come out.
Your doctor can show you how to do this:
Call your doctor right away if:
- Your baby's eyelid is very red or swollen.
- There is a red lump at the inner lower corner of the eyelid.
Call your child's doctor during office hours if:
- There is yellow discharge from your baby's eye.
- Your child is more than 1 year old.
- You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-13
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.