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Do you have a blocked tear duct?

Caucasian lady with an infected and swollen eye looks into the camera.

Tear ducts are part of the system that allows tears to drain from your eyes. If one of them is blocked, your tears won’t drain properly. This can make your eyes watery and irritated. Here’s what you need to know about this condition.

Causes of blocked tear duct People of all ages can experience a blocked tear duct. The most common causes of this condition include:

  • Congenital blockage. It’s estimated that up to 20 percent of infants are born with a blocked tear duct. In many cases, they clear up on their own.

  • Injury. A broken nose or other trauma to the face can cause scar tissue to form near the drainage system and prevent the normal flow of tears.

  • Aging. As you get older, it’s normal for the tiny openings in the corner of your eyes, called the puncta, to narrow. This can make it harder for tears to properly drain.

  • Infections. Conjunctivitis (also called pink eye) and other types of inflammation in and around the eyes can block your tear drainage system.

  • Medical treatments. Blocked tear ducts can be a side effect of using eye drops to treat glaucoma or receiving certain cancer treatments.

Signs of blocked tear duct If you have a blocked tear duct, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Watery eyes and excessive tearing

  • Redness of the affected eye

  • Pain and swelling near the corner of the eye

  • Crusty buildup on the eyelids

  • Discharge from the eye

  • Blurred vision

Recurrent eye infections can also be a sign of a blocked tear duct, since irritation caused by a buildup of tears increases the risk of infection. Blocked Tear Duct Treatments The best course of action to treat a blocked tear duct depends on the cause. In some cases, the condition will clear up on its own. However, a health-care professional may recommend:

  • Massage. Gently rubbing the lower corner of the eyes near the nose with a clean finger can help clear blockages, especially in infants.

  • Antibiotics. If the blockage is caused by an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the underlying condition.

  • Probing or dilation. A doctor can thread specialized instruments through the tear drainage system to widen the passage or flush it out.

  • Surgery. This procedure typically involves inserting a small tube into the duct to allow tears to properly drain.

Eye care in Edmonton If you or your child has a blocked tear duct, the team at Optometrists’ Clinic can help determine the best course of action. We offer general and pediatric eye exams, as well as treatment for a number of eye conditions. Contact us today to book an appointment at one of our eye centres in the Edmonton area.


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