We’ve all experienced crying tears through sadness, joy or stepping outside on a cold, wintery day, but have you noticed your nose regularly streaming when you or your child cries? A persistent runny nose when you cry or get watery eyes through allergies could be a symptom of a blocked tear duct.
Let's take a look at what causes this and how to get rid of a blocked tear duct.
Why do tear ducts get blocked?
Our tear ducts - also known as the nasolacrimal ducts or lacrimal ducts - can cause us an issue when the duct which drains the tears from the eye to the nose become blocked.
Blocked tear ducts can happen at any age and can be caused by a variety of reasons. In adults, causes of a blocked tear duct can include:
Infection or inflammation of the eye
Injury or trauma to the face
Dust, dirt or loose particles of skin getting stuck in the duct
Tumours in the nose or another place along the drainage system
Age related reduction in size of the tear duct
Other medical causes such as a reaction to chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
Blocked tear ducts in babies and children
In children, blocked tear ducts can be congenital - i.e. they are born with them - or develop later in the child’s life. Some babies are born with a membrane covering their tear ducts, which will disappear naturally during their first year of life as their drainage system develops.
Newborns can experience matting and excessive tearing, which is often blamed on pink eye. Without other symptoms, such as red eyes, this is more likely to be caused by a blocked tear duct.
If your child is repeatedly diagnosed with pink eye, they may have a blocked tear duct. If you have any concerns or questions, it is worth asking advice from your Doctor or healthcare provider to get a professional opinion and the correct treatment.
How do you know if you’ve got a blocked tear duct?
Blocked tear duct symptoms may include:
Mucus from the eyelids or surface of your eye
Redness of the eye
Swollen corner of the eye that can be itchy or painful
Recurrent infections such as pink eye (Conjunctivitis).
Will a blocked tear duct go away on its own?
For babies who are born with blocked tear ducts, their symptoms will usually decline over the first few months of their life as their drainage system matures.
For adults, most cases of blocked tear ducts go away on their own with good hygiene practices.
How to treat a blocked tear duct
If your tear duct is causing you pain or discomfort, it is important to seek medical advice to get a diagnosis and the best course of action.
At home, you can soothe a blocked tear duct by massaging the corner of the eye at the side of the nose 2-3 times a day, cleaning the area with cotton wool and warm water. Sometimes antibiotic drops may be required when the discharge becomes excessive.
In more severe cases, a tear duct may need to be treated to drain the blockage.
Your treatment will depend on what’s causing the blockage, but common methods include inserting a probe into the puncta - the tiny drainage holes in the corner of your eye - and flushing out the tear duct.
Preventing a blocked tear duct from happening
Good eye hygiene can help to reduce the risk of infection and inflammation, which can cause a blocked tear duct.
Remember to wash your hands regularly
Try not to rub your eyes
Make sure you replace cosmetics such as mascara and eyeliner regularly and do not share these with other people
If you are a contact lens wearer, wash your hands before handling your lenses and clean and store them as advised by your optometrist.
When should you seek help?
If you think you have a blocked tear duct, or are experiencing symptoms that are causing you concern, book an eye test at your local optician who can check the health of your eyes, diagnose the problem and provide treatment next steps.
If you have any concerns about your the health of your eyes or your vision, it is important that you seek professional help. Find your local independent optometrist by entering your postcode.