Your treatment depends on what's causing the blocked tear duct. You may need more than one approach to correct the problem. If a tumor is causing your blocked tear duct, treatment will focus on the cause of the tumor. Surgery may be performed to remove the tumor, or your doctor may recommend using other treatments to shrink it.

  • Medications to fight infection. If your doctor suspects an infection is present, he or she may prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or pills.
  • Watch-and-wait or massage. Babies born with a blocked tear duct often get better without any treatment. This can happen as the drainage system matures during the first couple months of life. Often a thin tissue membrane remains over the opening that empties into the nose (nasolacrimal duct). If your baby's blocked tear duct isn't improving, his or her doctor may teach you a special massage technique to help open the membrane.

    If you've had a facial injury that caused blocked tear ducts, your doctor may suggest waiting a few months to see if the condition improves as your injury heals. As the swelling goes down, your tear ducts may become unblocked on their own.

  • Dilation, probing and flushing. For infants, this technique is done under general anesthesia. The doctor enlarges the punctal openings with a special dilation instrument and inserts a thin probe through the puncta and into the tear drainage system.

    For adults with partially narrowed puncta, your doctor may dilate the puncta with a small probe and then flush (irrigate) the tear duct. This is a simple outpatient procedure that often provides at least temporary relief.

  • Balloon catheter dilation. If other treatments haven't worked or the blockage returns, this procedure may be used. It's usually effective for infants and toddlers, and may also be used in adults with partial blockage. First the patient is given a general anesthetic. Then the doctor threads through the tear duct blockage in the nose a tube (catheter) with a deflated balloon on the tip. He or she inflates and deflates the balloon a few times to open the blockage.
  • Stenting or intubation. This procedure is usually done using general anesthesia. A thin tube, made of silicone or polyurethane, is threaded through one or both puncta in the corner of your eyelid. These tubes then pass through the tear drainage system into your nose. A small loop of tubing will stay visible in the corner of your eye, and the tubes are generally left in for about three months before they're removed. Possible complications include inflammation from the presence of the tube.


The surgery that's commonly used to treat blocked tear ducts is called dacryocystorhinostomy (DAK-ree-oh-sis-toe-rye-nohs-tuh-me). This procedure opens the passageway for tears to drain out your nose again. First you're given a general anesthetic, or a local anesthetic if it's performed as an outpatient procedure.

The steps in this procedure vary, depending on the exact location and extent of your blockage, as well as your surgeon's experience and preferences.

  • External. With external dacryocystorhinostomy, your surgeon makes an incision on the side of your nose, near where the lacrimal sac is located. After connecting the lacrimal sac to your nasal cavity and placing a stent in the new passageway, the surgeon closes up the skin incision with a few stitches.
  • Endoscopic or endonasal. With this method, your surgeon uses a microscopic camera and other tiny instruments inserted through the nasal opening to your duct system. This method requires no incision so leaves no scar. But the success rates aren't as high as with the external procedure.

Following surgery you'll use a nasal decongestant spray and eyedrops to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. After three to six months, you'll return to your doctor's office for removal of any stents used to keep the new channel open during the healing process.

Feb. 11, 2016
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