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Blocked Tear Duct in Infants

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 baby's eye drain. A blocked tear duct means your baby's tears do not drain easily. When the tear duct is blocked, your baby may be at higher risk for eye infections. Babies are sometimes born with a blocked tear duct. It may be blocked if it is too narrow. It may also be blocked if your baby has extra tissue in his or her tear duct. Your baby's risk for a blocked tear duct may be higher if he or she has Down syndrome or a cleft lip or palate.

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

A blocked tear duct usually happens in 1 eye, but it may affect both. Your baby may have any of the following:

  • Your baby's eye makes tears when he or she is not crying
  • Pus in the corner of the eye
  • Crust on the eyelid or eyelashes
  • A hard, blue lump, or swelling between the eye and the nose

How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will examine your baby's eye. He or she may place drops in your baby'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?

Most tear ducts open without treatment by the time your baby is 6 months. Your baby may need surgery to open the tear duct if it does not get better without treatment. Surgery may also be needed if swelling makes it hard for your baby to breathe through his or her nose.

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

Clean and massage your baby'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 baby's eye.
  • Place a warm compress on your baby'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 baby's nose, near his or her eye.
  • Press gently and slide your finger down toward the corner of your baby's nose. You may see pus or fluid drain from the inside corner of your baby'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 baby's cheek or nose.
  • Your baby's breathing is loud and faster than usual.

When should I contact my baby's healthcare provider?

  • The bump on your baby's eye gets bigger or turns red.
  • The white part of your baby's eye is red.
  • Your baby's eye starts draining more pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby'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.