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Blocked Tear Duct in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about a blocked tear duct?

The tear duct is a connection between the eye and the nose. It helps your child's eye drain. A blocked tear duct means your child's tears do not drain easily. When the tear duct is blocked, your child may be at higher risk for eye infections. A tear duct may become blocked if it is too narrow. It may also become blocked if your child has extra tissue in his or her tear duct. Your child's risk for a blocked tear duct may be higher if he or she has nasal polyps or an eye injury.

What are the signs and symptoms of a blocked tear duct?

A blocked tear duct usually happens in 1 eye. Your child may have any of the following:

  • An eye that makes tears when your child is not crying
  • Pus in the corner of the eye
  • Crust on the eyelid or eyelashes

How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will examine your child's eye. He or she may place drops in your child's eye and look at the eye with a special light. This can help the provider see blockages in the tear duct.

How is a blocked tear duct managed?

Blocked tear ducts usually get better without treatment. Your child may need surgery to open the tear duct if it does not get better on its own.

What can I do to manage my child's symptoms?

Clean and massage your child's eye 2 to 3 times every day or as directed. Massage helps unblock the tear duct. This can decrease pain and swelling, and prevent an eye infection:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Wet a soft washcloth with warm water. Gently wipe any pus or dried crust out of your child's eye.
  • Place a warm compress on your child's eye. A warm compress can help decrease pain. It can also make it easier to unblock the tear duct. Use a small towel or gauze dipped in warm water. Leave the compress in place for 5 minutes.
  • Place your ring or pinky finger on the side of your child's nose, near his or her eye.
  • Press gently and slide your finger down toward the corner of your child's nose. You may see pus or fluid drain from the inside corner of your child's eye. This is normal.
  • Wipe away any pus or fluid that drains from the eye. Wash your hands.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • The swelling spreads to your child's cheek or nose.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a blue or red bump on the inside corner of his or her eye.
  • The white part of your child's eye is red.
  • Your child's eye starts draining more pus.
  • Your child's eye does not improve after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.