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Blocked Tear Duct

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a blocked tear duct?

The tear duct is a connection between your eye and nose. It helps your eye drain. A blocked tear duct means your tears do not drain easily. When the tear duct becomes blocked, you may be at higher risk for eye infections.

What increases my risk for a blocked tear duct?

  • Infections caused by bacteria or a virus
  • Injuries to your face, such as a broken nose
  • Certain medicines, such as eyedrops used to treat glaucoma
  • Sinus surgery or other procedures
  • An object in your tear duct
  • A mass in your eye

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

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

  • Frequent tearing of your eye
  • Pus in the corner of the eye
  • Crust on the eyelid or eyelashes
  • Redness around your eye

How is a blocked tear duct diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your eye. He or she may place drops in your 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. You may need surgery to open the tear duct if it does not get better without treatment.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

Clean and massage your 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 eye.
  • Place a warm compress on your 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 index finger on the side of your nose, near your eye. Use a mirror to help you find the correct place.
  • Press gently and slide your finger down toward the corner of your nose. You may see pus or fluid drain from the inside corner of your 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 cheek or nose.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.