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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.

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