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Tear Duct Obstruction

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What are the tear ducts?

The tear ducts are the eye’s normal drainage system. Tears produced by the lacrimal gland located under the upper lid coat the surface of the eye before draining down two small openings in the eyelid towards the nose. The small openings in the eyelid drain through the nose and finally down the back of the throat.

What are the symptoms of a blocked tear duct?

Patients may experience excessive tearing or “epiphora”. This may be constant or intermittent and may cause surrounding redness and skin tenderness. This is often associated with mucus discharge and mild conjunctivitis.

What causes a blocked tear duct?

Infants frequently develop this condition (nasolacrimal duct obstruction) due to the incomplete development of the drainage system and the nasal cavity. Adults may develop this at any time due to normal age-related changes, inflammation, infection, or mechanical obstruction.

How is a blocked tear duct treated?

In infants, the nasolacrimal duct obstruction often resolves spontaneously but may also be relieved by digital massaging as instructed by your eye doctor. For those that don’t resolve, minor outpatient surgery is usually successful.

In adults, treatment of the underlying condition is often successful. This may involve a minor in-office procedure to dilate and irrigate the drainage system. A combination of eye drops and oral medication may help in treating any inflammation or infection that may be contributing to the blockage. Surgery is sometimes needed if these measures don’t work.
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