Children's Hospital Colorado
Eye Care

Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

Kids aren’t just mini adults. In fact, they’re incredibly different. That’s why they need incredibly different care.

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What is a nasolacrimal duct obstruction?

The nasolacrimal duct is a tear drainage pathway connecting the eyelids with the inside of the nose. In most children, there is a small opening to the duct in the corner of each eyelid called a “punctum.” Tears from the eyes enter the punctum and travel beneath the skin through the nasolacrimal duct in order to drain into the inside of the nose. This is the reason people have a runny nose when they cry.

In some children, the nasolacrimal duct may be clogged or have a small opening that is very narrow, and some children are born with a nasolacrimal duct that hasn’t opened yet. An obstructed nasolacrimal duct prevents tears from draining into the nose and this can cause the tears to run down the patient’s cheek instead.

What causes a nasolacrimal duct obstruction?

Nasolacrimal duct obstruction is most commonly seen in babies who are born before the duct has completely opened. This is known as a congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. The duct typically opens on its own as the baby grows. In other cases, the duct remains obstructed. Children can have an obstructed nasolacrimal duct on one side or on both sides.

Who gets nasolacrimal duct obstruction?

Nasolacrimal duct obstruction is usually not inherited and is seen commonly in both girls and boys. It is more common in children with certain chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Robert Enzenauer, MD, MPH/MSPH

Robert Enzenauer, MD, MPH/MSPH

Ophthalmology, Pediatrics

Rebecca Braverman, MD

Rebecca Braverman, MD

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Emily McCourt, MD

Emily McCourt, MD

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Jasleen Singh, MD

Jasleen Singh, MD

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