Blocked tear duct, which causes watery eyes in infants are quite common. It causes tear overproduction which is resulted from improper drainage. Tear overproduction eventually causes build up around the tear sac, which can be disturbing after sleeping, as the tear might harden and causes the eyes to be sticky. One-fifth of newborn babies experience the issue of watery eyes which are caused by blocked tear duct.
Signs of blocked tear duct
- Newborns experience watery eyes, which may affect the lids and cheeks. However, the eyeball commonly stays white and healthy.
- Since there are some bacteria present in tears, which are going to grow and cause pus-like drainage on the corner of the eye and the lashes. This might cause the lashes to stick together, which is visible when the child awakes.
- Since the tear duct is blocked, tears have nowhere to drain, resulting in drainage build up that may cause sticky eye lids when it hardens.
Dangers of blocked tear duct in infants
Eyelids move tears across the eyes in order to keep the eyes lubricated and protect against infection which might be carried by bacteria around the eyes, eyelids, or eyelashes. Tears drain out through both upper and lower openings, called as lacrimal and puncta ducts. Through both openings, tears move down to nasolacrimal duct to be drained in the back of the nose. In babies, these nasolacrimal ducts commonly have not fully and properly formed yet, which triggers tear duct blockage, causing watery and sticky eyes. However, within the first year of baby’s age, these ducts are growing and will likely to open up without any specific treatments. Hence, tear duct blockage is not a thing to worry, as long as no eye infection involves.
Treatments for blocked tear duct
Since the obstruction of nasolacrimal duct will resolve within 12 months, home treatments for blocked tear duct should be helpful. Some of the common treatments for blocked tear duct in newborns that work include:
Warm compresses is very helpful for inhibiting bacteria growth within the tears. Hence, this will minimize excessed drainage. In newborns experiencing sticky eyelids caused by blocked tear duct, warm compresses help to soften crusted dry tears to enable the lids to open up more easily.
Massaging clogged tear duct is also an essential treatment which is safe to be done at home. This massage is applied around the corner of the eye, where either the upper or lower tear duct is clogged. You can use your index finger or a warm washcloth to perform the massage. To perform the massage, these are simple directions you can consider:
- If using a warm washcloth, wash it first and makes sure it is not too hot, as baby skin might easily burn.
- Rest your index finger on the washcloth and rub it gently over the corner of the eye in circular motion.
- Move the finger below the eye and roll it downward over the body ridge towards the nose.
- Do this gently and regularly three times a day. This gentle massage is beneficial for triggering clogged tear duct to open up and will not harm the baby.
Breast milk application for treating blocked tear duct is proven as a quite effective remedy. Mother’s breast milk, especially colostrum contains beneficial antibody, which prevent bacteria adhesion to the eye and decrease the discharge. Apply a dab of breast milk over the corner of the eye where clogged tear duct is located. If you doubt of its application, talk to the pediatrician before using it might be helpful.