Children's Hospital Colorado

Tear Duct - Blocked

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Questions about a blocked tear duct
  • The tear duct is the tube that carries tears from the eye to the nose
  • It's blocked in 10% of newborns
  • Use this guide only if a doctor has told you it's a blocked tear duct

Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct

  • A constant watery eye
  • Tears fill the eye and run down the face. This happens even when not crying.
  • The eye is not red and the eyelid is not swollen.
  • Both sides are blocked in 30% of these children.

Cause of a Blocked Tear Duct

  • Caused by blockage of the lacrimal duct. This duct carries tears from the corner of the eye to the nose.
  • A watery eye may not be noticed until 1 or 2 months old. Reason: That's when the eye starts making more tears.

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Clear part in the middle of the eye (cornea) is cloudy
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Red lump at inner corner of eyelid
  • Eyelid is red or swollen
  • Pus in the eye
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Diagnosis has never been made by a doctor
  • Age over 12 months old
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Blocked tear duct

Care Advice for Blocked Tear Duct

  1. What You Should Know About Blocked Tear Ducts:
    • A blocked tear duct is common. It happens in 10% of newborns.
    • Both sides are blocked 30% of the time.
    • A blocked tear duct does not need treatment unless it becomes infected.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Antibiotic Eyedrops for Pus in the Eye:
    • Pus in the eye or eyelids stuck together means the eye is infected.
    • This is common with blocked tear ducts. It should clear up in a few days with antibiotic eyedrops.
    • For pus in the eye, call your child's doctor for a prescription.
    • In the meantime, here is some advice that should help.
  3. Remove Pus:
    • Remove the dried and liquid pus from the eyelids with warm water and wet cotton balls.
    • Do this each time you see pus.
    • Also, clean the eyes before you use the prescription eyedrops. The eyedrops will not work unless the pus is removed first.
  4. Massage of Lacrimal Sac - Do it Carefully:
    • Some doctors suggest massage of the lacrimal sac (where tears collect). Other doctors do not. Massage is not required. The tear duct will open without any massage. If massage is advised, do it this way:
    • The lacrimal sac is in the inner corner of the lower eyelid. This sac can be massaged to empty it of old fluids.
    • A cotton swab works much better than a finger. Reason: The swab is smaller.
    • Start at the inner corner of the eye and press upward. Be very gentle. Do this twice a day.
    • Fluid and mucus should come out of the lacrimal sac.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Over 90% of tear ducts open up on their own.
    • This should happen by the time the child is 12 months of age.
    • If your child is over 12 months old, talk to your child's doctor. Your child may need to see an eye doctor.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eye looks infected
    • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither publishers nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any expressed or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.

Copyright 1994-2017 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. All rights reserved.

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