Blocked Tear Duct: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

By Patricia | May 26, 2010

What is a blocked tear duct?

A tear duct can be described as the soft, round lump that is found in the corner of both of your eyes. These tear ducts are located very close to the bridge of your nose and they perform the important function of draining the excess fluid from the eyes, by sending any extra lubrication to the nasal cavity. Most of us do not even realize the presence of our tear ducts that is till we suffer from the problem of blocked tear ducts and our eyes begin to get flooded with tears for no apparent reason. This is because a blocked tear duct in adults and newborn babies do not allow the fluid in the eye to drain in the normal manner, leading to watery and irritated eyes.

The problem of a blocked tear duct in babies is very common, as it is present in almost 20% of all newborn babies. A blocked tear duct in a baby is very common congenital defect, since one out of five babies is born with it. This could either be because the tear drainage system is not fully developed, or it could be due to an abnormality. However, the problem of a blocked tear duct in an infant usually clear up within the first one year of life. The thin tissue membrane usually opens spontaneously between the first and the third month.

Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the eyes are some of the most sensitive parts of the body, most people tend to ignore the problem of blocked tear ducts, at least in adults. However, when the tears do not drain in the way that they should, they can buildup within the drainage system and could become stagnant, which leads to the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. The presence of these organisms is usually instrumental in several other eye inflammations, infections and eye related problems. Therefore, it is best to undergo clogged tear duct treatment as soon as possible, in order to prevent and major complications from developing within the eye. However, in order to adopt the right blocked tear duct treatment adults or even children, it is important to know exactly what the causes of the blocked tear duct are.


The main cause of blocked tear ducts in adults is a partial or total obstruction within the tear drainage system. Other causes of blocked tear ducts in adults include:

  • Tear duct infection
  • Facial and eye injuries
  • A tumor in the eye
  • Eye inflammation
  • Craniofacial abnormalities
  • The use of certain oral and topical medication
  • Formation of cysts or stones in the tear drainage system


There are several signs and symptoms of blocked tear duct in adults and children. As soon as any of them become evident, it is important for you to inform a doctor about it. Some of the most common blocked tear duct symptoms in adults and children are:

  • Excessive tearing and watering in the eyes
  • Recurrent conjunctivitis or other eye inflammation
  • A swollen tear duct or a painful swelling inside the corner of the eye
  • Mucus discharge from the eyes
  • Vision problems, especially blurriness
  • Traces of blood in the tears
  • Eye infections like dacryocystitis that keep recurring

Identifying the problem at the earlier stages can help prevent the blocked tear duct infection from getting worse. Moreover, immediate action is essential, in case the problem has been cause by tumors. Therefore, the blocked tear duct symptoms mentioned above should not be ignored. There are also several online resources with blocked tear duct pictures in case you need a graphic representation of what the condition looks like.


Before administering any type of blocked or infected tear duct treatment, a doctor will need to confirm the diagnosis, through a couple of tests, which include the tear drainage test (fluorescein dye disappearance test), irrigation and probing and eye imaging tests like dacryoscintigraphy or dacryocystograhy. There are numerous blocked and swollen tear duct treatment options that you can opt for.

In case of most infants and children, conventional treatment options are recommended, which mainly include a special blocked tear duct massage technique. By massaging blocked tear duct, you can open up the membrane that covers the lower opening into the child’s nose. Infant blocked tear duct massage can be shown to you by any good optometrist. Conservative treatment is rarely recommended for adults.

There are other non invasive ways of treating a block tear duct too, which involve

  • Balloon catheter dilation
  • Intubaiton or stenting
  • Dilation, probing and irrigation

These options are ideal of children, whose tear ducts have not opened on their own, as well as adults, who are suffering from a partially blocked duct.

However, blocked tear duct surgery is probably the most commonly used option in adults as well as older children or teenagers. This treatment options is used in infants and babies only after all other treatment options have been tried without much success. The blocked tear duct surgery in adults is generally used to reconstruct the passageway, so that tears can drain through the nose in a normal fashion. During the blocked tear duct operation, the patient will be given some local anesthesia, in case the outpatient procedure is followed. The surgeon then accesses the patient’s tear drainage system, to create a new connection directly between the nose and the lacrimal sac. However, the steps for the procedures may differ, depending on the exact location of the problem.

There are many people who ask doctors, if this problem can be resolved with the use of a blocked tear duct home remedy. Certain eye specialists may recommend a few blocked tear duct remedies like massage therapy followed by the use of hot compresses over the affected eye, for a period of 10 to 15 minutes. This not only helps relieve the pain, swelling and discomfort in the eye area, but also loosens any residual blockage. However, it is important to get a doctor’s approval before using the home remedies for blocked tear ducts.


The tear ducts play a very important role in the maintenance and cleaning of the eyeballs. They also make sure that the eyes are well lubricated and free of any foreign particles that will get in the way of your vision. Most of the tears that your body creates will originate from the lacrimal glands, located just above each eye. The tears will then stream down the length and breadth of the eyeball and drain into tiny holes located in the corners or the upper and lower eyelids. From here, the tears will then be transported through small canals into the nose where they are emptied. Whenever your tear ducts are blocked, the tears are not able to drain properly and result in excessively watery eyes, which increase the likelihood of eye infection and inflammation. There are a number of factors that cause blocked tear ducts. The most common cause of the condition happens to be a birth defect where the membrane that covers the tear duct fails to open into the nasal passage as it normally should. As a result, the entire drainage system of the eyes is disrupted. Aging is another common factor leading to blocked tear ducts as older adults experience eyeball and eyelid changes that cause the ducts to close up. Being affected by chronic infections or inflammations are also likely to cause a blockage in the tear ducts. Sustaining a facial injury or trauma, development of tumors or cysts can all play a significant role in the development of the condition.


Given the fact that the condition is rather common, it is no surprise that there are a number of home treatment options that have proven to be effective. The easiest and probably most effective way of treating the condition naturally is to stimulate the affected ducts with warm and moist fomentations. All you need to do is create a mixture of warm water and add a small amount of boric acid powder before soaking a clean cotton washcloth and applying it over the affected eye. Perform the treatment regularly, three times a day for a period of five minutes each so as to achieve best results. You could also try a stimulating massage to open up the blockage. The most effective technique would be to massage the eyelids with your fingers in a clockwise and then anticlockwise direction about three times a day. Pinching the nose bridge and running your fingers gently over the entire bone are also likely to be helpful.

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