Blocked Tear Duct

You tears do a lot more than crying. Tears flow across the surface of your eyes to clean and moisten them, and then they leave your eyes by a system of little drainage tubes which run along your nose.

Sometimes these tubes get blocked, which stops the tears from draining out of your eyes. This additional fluid may leave your eyes watery.

A blocked tear duct is quite common in infants. The condition generally gets better without any treatment in the first year of life. In case of adults, a blocked tear duct may be because of an injury, an infection or a tumor.

A blocked tear duct is nearly always correctable. Treatment depends on the reason of the blockage and the age of the individual.

What are the Symptoms of Blocked Tear Duct

  • Too much tearing
  • Redness of the white part of the eye
  • Repeated eye infection or inflammation
  • Crusting of the eyelids
  • Painful swelling near the inside corner of the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Mucus or pus discharge from the lids and surface of the eye

What are the Causes of Blocked Tear Duct

At times babies are born with blocked tear ducts. This occurs due to a part of tissue which covers the duct doesn't open up at birth like it should. It will regularly open on its own after a few months.

Sometimes, tear ducts get blocked as the tear drainage system didn't form properly in the womb.

In adults, tear duct blockage may occur due to various reasons:

  • The holes in the corners of the eyes narrow due to age.
  • Trauma may cut the drainage duct.
  • An injury in nose leaves scar tissue which presses on the tear duct.
  • Polyps may form in the nose and block the duct.
  • Conjunctivitis (pinkeye)
  • A tumor presses on the drainage system.
  • Sinus surgery can damages the tear ducts or the holes that drain to them.
  • Radioactive iodine and chemotherapy treatment for cancer can cause swelling in the tear ducts.


Your doctor will examine your eyes and recommend a few tests. He/she will also examine the inner side of your nose to find out if any structural disorders of your nasal passages are the reason of the problem. Other tests to find the blocked tear duct may include:

  • Tear drainage test: The test measures how fast your tears are draining.
  • Irrigation and probing: Your doctor can flush a saline solution through your tear drainage system to find how well it's draining .He/ she might insert a slender instrument through the minute drainage holes at the corner of your lid (puncta) to verify for blockages.
  • Eye imaging tests: a contrast dye is passed from the puncta in the corner of your lid through the tear drainage system. After that X-ray, computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are done to get the location and cause of the blockage.

What are Treatments of Blocked Tear Duct

There are different ways to open a blocked tear duct. They range from massage to procedures that remove the blockage.

  • Massage: Rubbing the corners of the eyes twice a day may release fluid and open up the tissue that covers the tear ducts.
  • Tear duct probing: If a tear duct doesn't open on its own within an year of birth of your child, the doctor may insert thin probe into the puncta to open the tissue covering the duct.
  • Balloon catheter dilation: Your doctor threads a thin tube or catheter into the tear duct and a pump inflates a balloon at the end of the tube to widen the duct.
  • Intubation: A small tube is threaded through your tear ducts to the inside of the nose. The tubes be in place for 3 to 6 months to open up the ducts and allow tears drain.
  • Surgery: If other treatments don’t work, a Dacryocystorhinostomy is done to bypass the blocked tear duct in adults. It makes a new route for tears to drain from the eye.

Chat with Us on