Blocked Tear Duct

Blocked Tear Duct

A blocked tear duct is a partial or complete blockage of the drain that carries tears away from the surface of the eye into the nose.

A tube called the nasolacrimal duct normally drains tears from the surface of the eye into the nose. If this duct is blocked, the tears will build up and overflow onto the cheek, even when a person isn’t crying.

In children, the duct may not be completely developed at birth. In adults, the duct can be damaged by infection, injury, or a tumor.

The symptom is increased tearing, which overflows onto the face or cheek.

  • Examination of the inside of the nose
  • Fluorescein eye stain to see how tears drain
  • Special x-ray studies may be done to examine the duct
  • Standard ophthalmic exam

In children whose nasolacrimal duct has not developed fully, massaging the area several times a day may be enough to open the tear duct. Cases that do not improve may need to be opened by a probing procedure. This may require anesthesia.

In adults, the cause of the blockage must be treated. This may re-open the duct if there is not much damage. Surgery to reconstruct the passageway may be needed to re-establish normal tear drainage, and stop the overflow onto the cheek.