Pediatric Ophthalmology

Tear Duct Obstruction

The tear (nasolacrimal) duct drains tears from the surface of the eye down into the nose. Many children are born with tear duct obstruction.


This condition causes symptoms of excessive tearing and discharge from the eye. The symptoms tend to develop within a few weeks after birth, but may sometimes be delayed several months or, rarely, a few years. Excessive tearing may occur at any time during the day but may be worse when outdoors.

Discharge can be significant at times and usually accumulates when a child sleeps. This discharge by itself does not signify an infection but infectious symptoms, such as redness of the eye or eyelid, may develop. Most children—about 90%—with tear duct obstruction will “outgrow” the condition in the first year of life. Vision is rarely affected by tear duct obstruction.

Treatment Options

Treatment of tear duct obstruction will involve probing of the tear duct if the condition does not spontaneously resolve. Tear duct probings can be performed in the office without anesthesia in young children—up to about age 4 to 6 months—or can be performed after the age of one year with anesthesia. The procedure is low risk, involves no incisions or stitches and is highly successful.

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