Lacrimal Duct Stenosis
(Blocked Tear Duct; Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction; Lacrimal Duct Obstruction; Dacryostenosis)
Lacrimal duct stenosis is a narrowing of a tear duct (lacrimal duct). This condition can occur in children and adults. This fact sheet will focus on lacrimal duct stenosis in infants.
In some babies, problems in normal development of the tear duct can cause lacrimal obstruction. A thin membrane may cover the opening of the duct into the nose.
Factors that may increase your baby’s chance of lacrimal duct stenosis:
Lacrimal duct stenosis may cause:
- Excessive tearing
- Recurrent red eye or eye irritation
- Tear duct infection (dacryocystitis) causing redness, warmth, swelling around the eye, and discharge with pus
- Cloudy or mucous-like discharge from the tear duct
- Crusting on the eyelid
- Bloody tears
The doctor will ask about your baby’s symptoms and medical history. The doctor will do an exam. Your baby may need to see a doctor who specializes in eye conditions in children if it persists.
The eye doctor may do a dye disappearance test. This test will help to confirm that there is a blockage in the tear duct.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. In infants, this condition often heals by itself in the first year of life.
Treatment options include:
- Massage—The doctor may gently push on the area where the tear duct runs out of the eye, between the baby’s eye and nose. This helps to push tears through the duct and open the membrane. You will also do this at home 3 times a day until the tear duct has opened.
- Probing—If the blockage is present at 1 year old the eye doctor may pass a tiny probe into the duct to open it up. In some cases, the ducts may be dilated with a balloon or stented to keep them open.
- Surgery—In some cases, surgery may be needed to open up the duct. In one type of surgery, the doctor puts a tiny, flexible instrument into the tear duct to see what is causing the blockage. The doctor may then flush fluid through the instrument. A laser may be used to cut away the blockage.
There are no current guidelines to prevent lacrimal duct stenosis.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Canadian Ophthalmology Society
Caring for Kids—Canadian Pediatric Society
Blocked tear duct. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/blocked-tear-duct/basics/definition/con-20033765. Updated February 13, 2013. November 4, 2015.
Hurwitz JJ. The lacrimal drainage system. Ophthalmology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2004: 761-768.
Nasolacrimal duct obstruction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113767/Nasolacrimal-duct-obstruction. Updated February 15, 2011. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Tear duct obstruction and surgery. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/tear_duct_obstruct_surgery.html. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Tearing. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/symptoms-of-ophthalmologic-disorders/tearing?qt=tearing&alt=sh. Updated August 2014. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.