Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

Clinical Services

Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

What is Pediatric Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction?

Blocked tear ducts, called nasolacrimal duct obstruction, affect 5% to 20% of newborns. It usually occurs because the tear duct is still developing, and it resolves once it finishes forming. While tear ducts are blocked, the baby’s eyes can become watery, irritated, and infected. Because newborns don’t make tears for the first few weeks, most cases aren’t diagnosed immediately. About 90% of cases resolve spontaneously, but those that remain can be corrected.

What are Symptoms of Pediatric Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction?

Normally, tears drain through a tiny opening in the corner of the eye, nearest the nose. The liquid then enters your nose, where your body absorbs it. When the ducts aren’t functioning properly, you may notice tears pooling in the corner of your baby's eye or yellow discharge in the eye. That might cause redness in the eyes or dried crusting on the eyelashes.

Dacryocystitis, or infection of the tear sac, is a rare emergency that can occur when a blocked tear duct develops a painful, red swollen nodule. Other symptoms are discharge, fever, and malaise. Take your child to the hospital for emergency antibiotics.

What are Causes of Pediatric Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction?

Blocked tear ducts are normal in newborns who are still developing. Older people might experience them because of tumors, injury, infection, glaucoma, chronic eye inflammation, eye or sinus surgery, or cancer treatment.

How is Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction Diagnosed?

A physical exam and medical history are usually all that is needed to make a diagnosis. A tear drain test can be conducted to measure how quickly tears are draining. A duct is considered blocked if a drop of dye placed on the eye surface remains there after five minutes. It is important to have the baby examined to have other rare causes of excess tearing, including childhood glaucoma, ruled out.

How is Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction Treated?

Tear duct massages several times a day usually help resolve the condition. Your doctor will show you how to apply firm pressure with the index finger in a downward movement over the tear duct. Antibiotic eye drops may be used to treat severe discharge, but they will not help open the tear duct. If the tear duct is still blocked by the child’s first birthday, a specialist can perform a simple procedure to open up the duct.

What you can expect at the Cizik Eye Clinic

The Cizik Eye Clinic opened in 2007 and is housed in Memorial Hermann Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.

People travel from across the country and the world for treatment at the Cizik Eye Clinic, in part because our affiliation with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth provides unmatched resources and expertise. Our friendly staff works diligently to make your visit pleasant and efficient, as we maximize patient flow through everything from routine eye exams to the most advanced eye surgeries.

Our physicians are faculty members at McGovern Medical School and are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or are board eligible. At the Cizik Eye Clinic, we understand that the eye is a small part of a whole patient who deserves top-notch, comprehensive care in a cutting-edge facility.