Blocked Tear Duct

Your Care Instructions

Tears normally drain from the eye through small tubes called tear ducts, which stretch from the eye into the nose. A blocked tear duct occurs when these tubes get blocked or do not open properly. This can cause your eyes to be teary and produce a yellowish white discharge. If a tear duct remains blocked, the tear duct sac fills with fluid and may become swollen and inflamed. Sometimes it can get infected.

In most cases, a blocked tear duct does not need treatment. The duct tends to open up on its own or pass the obstruction over time. If the duct does not open, a procedure called probing can be used to open it. In the meantime, you can take care of your eye by being sure to keep it clean. This can help prevent infection. If the duct gets infected, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you continue to have problems.

How can you care for yourself at home?

To keep your eye clean and decrease inflammation:

  • Moisten a clean cotton ball or washcloth with warm (not hot) water, and gently wipe from the inner corner to the outer part of the eye. With each wipe, use a new or clean part of the cotton ball or washcloth.
  • If your eyelashes are crusty from mucus, clean them with a moist cotton ball using a gentle, downward motion. If the eyelids get stuck together, place a clean, warm, wet cotton ball over that eye for a few minutes to help loosen the crust.
  • Massage your tear duct. Press gently on the inner corner of the eye in a downward motion. Make sure that your hands are clean and your nails are short.

If the doctor prescribed antibiotic pills, eye drops, or ointment, use them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your eye gets better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

To put in eye drops or ointment:

  1. Tilt your head back, and pull the lower eyelid down with one finger.
  2. Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
  3.  Close your eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.

Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to the eyelashes or any other surface.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

You have signs of infection, such as:

  • Increased swelling and redness in or around the eye, eyelid, or nose.
  • Pus draining from the eye.
  • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if the drainage from your eye gets worse or your tear duct does not open up after 3-4 weeks.

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