A child’s eyes can tell us a lot about their thoughts, wants, and needs. Our eyes are an essential tool in communication, and they can tell us a lot about our health, too. For instance, if your child’s eyes are consistently watery, or they seem to be having trouble with their vision, it may be a sign of a blocked tear duct.
What Is A Blocked Tear Duct?
Though we typically associate tears with sadness, our eyes actually continually produce tears to protect the surface of the eye and keep it lubricated, regardless of our emotions. These tears are produced by the lacrimal glands, located above each eye, and transported to the surface of the eye. After washing over the eye, the tears drain into holes in the corners of the upper and lower eyelids, and then into the lacrimal sac, where the eyelids are attached to the side of the nose. From there, they flow down the nasolacrimal duct, which empties into the nose. This nasolacrimal duct is what we commonly call the tear duct.
A nasolacrimal duct obstruction will prevent tears from draining naturally, causing them to instead accumulate in the eye. Blocked tear ducts are common in infants and young children, but often go undetected until the issue becomes more severe.
What Causes The Blockage?
are born with at least one underdeveloped tear duct, which can lead to a partial or complete obstruction. However, since babies do not begin producing tears until they are a few weeks old, the tear duct blockage is typically not caught by a doctor at birth.
Moreover, symptoms may only become apparent when the baby cries, or when the weather is windy or cold, leading to a later diagnosis. In most cases, the duct simply needs time to develop fully, and the issue will resolve on its own.
However, older children can still be at risk of developing blocked tear ducts. For instance, an injury that causes trauma to the eye or other areas of the face can block the tear ducts, as can frequent eye infections, as well as polyps, cysts, or a tumor pressing on the tear drainage system. Even dirt or loose skin cells lodged in the duct can cause a blockage.
Signs To Look For:
Symptoms can vary from child to child, but there are some common signs of a blockage in the tear duct to look out for:
- Excessive tearing: Excessive tearing and watery eyes are some of the most common blocked tear duct symptoms. As previously mentioned, a blocked tear duct prevents tears from draining normally. This makes it so that they accumulate and pool in the eye, leading to an overflow of tears.
- Rubbing or squinting: Blocked tear ducts can be uncomfortable, itchy, and irritating. As a result, it's common for a child with an obstruction to rub their eyes frequently or squint in discomfort. They may also complain about a burning sensation in the eye, as well as blurred vision.
- Redness and inflammation: A blocked tear duct can cause pink eye, painful swelling, and chronic eye inflammation. This is because without proper drainage, the tears that accumulate become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to an infection. Moreover, because the irritation may cause a child to rub their eyes more, they may be at higher risk of developing a bacterial eye infection.
- Mucus discharge: Because infections are common with blocked tear ducts, so too, is a yellow or green mucus discharge. This can be seen around the eye and on the eyelid, and it may also dry, causing a crust to form on the eyelids or lashes.
Let The Tears Flow!
At Conestoga Eye, our dedicated team can diagnose and in children and adults. For patients with persistent clogged tear ducts, our team is experienced in performing Endonasal Endoscopic Dacryocystorhinostomy and other surgical procedures to clear blocked tear ducts and restore normal tear drainage.
We understand that blocked tear ducts can be uncomfortable and irritating for your child. That's why it's important to contact an experienced eye doctor and seek treatment as soon as possible. With the right diagnosis and care, these blockages can be cleared and your child's eyes can return to normal in no time. Contact us today to find out how we can help your child!