Blocked Tear Duct (Dacryostenosis)

What is a blocked tear duct?

Tears are produced in the lacrimal gland, located under the bone of the eyebrow, and flow over the eye through tiny ducts along the eyelid. After draining away from the eye through two small openings at the inner corner of the eyelids, tears drain into a larger passage from the eye to the inside of the nose, called the nasolacrimal duct, or tear duct.

In some babies, the openings into the tear duct haven’t formed properly. This causes a blockage, and the tears have no place to drain. As many as 6 percent of newborns have a blocked tear duct in the eye. This condition is called dacryostenosis or congenital lacrimal duct obstruction, meaning it’s present at birth. A blocked tear duct can occur in one or both eyes.

Because infants don’t produce tears until they are several weeks old, a blocked tear duct may not be noticeable at birth. It may also be noticeable only when a baby cries, or in cold or windy weather when tears are stimulated.

Fortunately, nearly all blocked tear ducts open on their own, usually by the time the child is 1 year old.