Lacrimal duct stenosis involves narrowing of a tear duct (lacrimal duct). This condition can occur in children and adults. This fact sheet will focus on lacrimal duct stenosis in infants.
The lacrimal duct (in blue) drains tears from the eye down into the nose. The opening of the ducts are near the inner corner of the eye.
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In some babies, problems in normal development can cause lacrimal duct obstruction. A thin membrane may cover the opening of the duct into the nose.
These factors increase your baby’s chance of developing lacrimal duct stenosis:
If your baby has any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to lacrimal duct stenosis. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if your baby has any of these:
- Excessive tearing
- Recurrent red eye or eye irritation
Tear duct infection (
dacryocystitis) causing redness, warmth, swelling around the eye, and discharge with pus
- Cloudy or mucous-like discharge from the tear duct
- Crusting on the eyelid
- Bloody tears
The doctor will ask about your baby’s symptoms and medical history. The doctor will do an exam. Your baby may need to see a doctor who specializes in eye conditions in children.
The eye doctor may do a dye disappearance test. This test will help to confirm that there is a blockage in the tear duct.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. In infants, this condition often heals by itself in the first year of life.
Treatment options include:
- Massage—The doctor may gently push on the area where the tear duct runs out of the eye, between the baby’s eye and nose. This helps to push tears through the duct. You will also do this at home 3 times a day until the tear duct has opened.
- Probing—The doctor may pass a tiny probe into the duct to open it up. In some cases, the ducts may be dilated with a balloon or stented to keep them open.
- Surgery—In some cases, surgery may be needed to open up the duct. In one type of surgery, the doctor puts a tiny, flexible instrument into the tear duct to see what is causing the blockage. The doctor may then flush fluid through the instrument. A laser may be used to cut away the blockage.
It is not possible to prevent this condition. To help reduce your baby’s chance of getting eye infections, keep your baby’s eyes clean and free of mucous.
DynaMed Editors. Nasolacrimal duct obstruction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated April 8, 2010. Accessed April 20, 2010.
Hurwitz JJ. The lacrimal drainage system.
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Kids Health. Causes of blocked tear ducts. Kids Health website. Available at:
. Accessed April 22, 2010.
Mayo Clinic. Blocked tear duct: risk factors. Mayo Clinic website. Available at:
. Updated October 2008. Accessed April 22, 2010.
Merck Manuals. Tearing. Merck Manuals Online Medical Library website. Available at:
. Updated April 2009. Accessed April 20, 2010.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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