Tears from the eye normally drain into the nose through the tear duct. If this duct is blocked, the tears spill over on the cheeks, even when a baby is not crying. This happens in 10% of young babies. Most of the time, only one tear duct is blocked.
Your child may have a blocked tear duct when:
Although the blockage was present at birth, your baby may not have symptoms right away. This is because in some babies, tear production is sometimes delayed until 3 or 4 weeks of age.
This is a common condition, affecting 6% of newborns. Both sides are blocked 30% of the time. Over 90% of blocked tear ducts open up without treatment by the time a child is 1 year old. If the blockage continues after age 1 year, an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) can open it with a probe.
Massaging the lacrimal sac (where tears collect) is not required. The lacrimal sac is in the inner, lower corner of the eye. The tear duct will open without any massage. If massage is recommended by your healthcare provider, however, do the following:
The massage technique is somewhat controversial. Some providers recommend massaging downward instead of upward in hopes of washing out the plug that blocks the lower duct. Some providers recommend not massaging the sac at all. Massage in either direction must be done gently, since it may irritate the eyelid tissue and contribute to infection.
Because of poor drainage, eyes with blocked tear ducts become easily infected. The infected eye produces a yellow discharge. If the eye becomes infected, it is very important to begin antibiotic eye drops and to stop the massage.
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