Tear duct obstruction is less commonly called nasolacrimal duct obstruction and indicates a blockage in the drain that empties tears from the eyes. An infant with tear duct obstruction has excessive tears and may have a discharge and crusting on the eye surface.
It is estimated that around six percent of infants are born with a tear duct obstruction that can affect one or both eyes. Fortunately, around 90% of these obstructions clear within the first 12 months of life.
What are the Symptoms of Infant Tear Duct Obstruction?
Bacteria unable to drain due to the blockage, grows within the tear duct and causes a pus-like discharge from the inner corner of the eye and onto the eyelashes. This is visibly evident when the child awakens.
As most tear duct obstructions clear up within the first 12 months of life, it is best to be conservative with initial treatment. The following treatment is the usual procedure:
- Your ophthalmologist will suggest tear duct massage three times daily and will show how it is done.
- Antibiotic drops may be prescribed after each massage. The drops should be used only if a green or yellow discharge is present. If a white discharge appears then the antibiotic drops should be discontinued.
There is a surgical procedure called “probing” that is performed to relieve the obstruction in a tear duct for the following reasons:
- If the tear duct obstruction persists beyond the first 12 months.
- If the discharge continues despite antibiotic eye drop and massage treatment.
- If a serious infection of the tear duct or the skin over it occurs as a result of the obstruction.
Probing consists of passing a small smooth wire through the duct and into the nose that releases the blockage and restores an open tear drainage system. No post-operative discomfort or scarring will result.
The procedure has proved better when performed before age 18 months. If the first probing is unsuccessful, a repeat is recommended that will include several procedural enhancements.0