What are the treatments for tear duct blockage in babies?
The tear duct (nasolacrimal duct) usually finishes developing and the problem goes away without any treatment. This often happens within a few weeks after birth. In some babies, it can take several months. So, you will normally be advised just to wait to see if the problem goes away on its own.
Simple massage of the tear duct of your baby can help drain the tears. Use gentle pressure with your finger on the outside of your baby's nose and then stroke downwards towards the point of the nose. This should be repeated regularly (5-10 times) each day. This can help to clear the excess tears that have become blocked. It may also help the tear duct to develop. Most babies will respond to this massaging and then will not need any further treatment.
If your baby's eye seems sticky or crusty then this can be gently wiped away using gauze. Moisten the gauze with sterile water (use boiled water that has then cooled down).
Antibiotic eye drops are sometimes prescribed to help clear conjunctivitis. Infection of the tear sac (dacryocystitis) needs treatment with antibiotic medicine given by mouth.
If the tear duct is still blocked by about 12 months of age, your doctor may refer your baby to an eye specialist. An option is for a specialist to perform a simple procedure where a very thin instrument is passed into the tear duct to open up the duct. The procedure is usually performed as a day case and it is normally very successful.
Sometimes a referral to a specialist may be made before 12 months if the blocked tear duct seems to be causing discomfort for your baby or there are any other concerns about your baby's eyes.
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- Nasolacrimal duct obstruction (nasolacrimal drainage dysfunction); College of Optometrists, March 2016
- Resolution of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction with nonsurgical management; Arch Ophthalmol. 2012 Jun 130(6):730-4. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2012.454.
- Takahashi Y, Kakizaki H, Chan WO, et al; Management of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Acta Ophthalmol. 2009 Jul 21.