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Blocked Tear Duct

Brief Version

What is a blocked tear duct?

When the pathway that carries tears gets blocked, that is called a blocked tear duct. This happens often in very young babies. Most of the time, only one tear duct is blocked at a time.

Your baby may have a blocked tear duct when:

  • One eye is always watery.
  • Tears run down the face even when your baby does not cry.
  • When your baby cries, the nostril on the blocked side is still dry.
  • The eye on the blocked side is not red, and the eyelid is not swollen.
  • The problem starts before your child is 1 month old.

How can I take care of my child?

Gently rub the inner, lower corner of your baby's eye with a clean cotton swab. That helps get rid of old tears that can build up. To do this:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Start at the inner corner of the eye.
  • Gently press upward.
  • A small amount of clear fluid should come out.

Call your doctor right away if:

  • Your baby's eyelid is very red or swollen.
  • There is a red lump at the inner lower corner of the eyelid.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • There is a lot of yellow discharge from your baby's eye.
  • Your child is more than 1 year old.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2001-11-13
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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