Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive

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Question:
How can I massage for blocked tear ducts in an adult?

Answer:
Babies' eyes and adults' eyes are very different. 

The passage from the eye to the nose—the nasolacrimal duct—may be closed in a newborn. Babies will have mucous in their eye and appear to have chronic infection. It is easily diagnosed and often resolves spontaneously.  Fifty percent will improve on their own—with massage and with time. Massaging a blocked tear duct works in infants under 1 year old. If the problem doesn't resolve by one year, babies need to have a treatment called probe and irrigation, which works well.

The cause of nasolacrimal duct obstruction in adults is quite different. Scarring, radiation, toxicity from glaucoma medicine, or tumors can all cause nasolacrimal duct obstruction. In adults, massaging, probe and irrigation, and the passage of time are not effective treatments. The underlying problem has to be treated; removal of a tumor, for example, followed by the creation of a new artificial duct to connect the eye to the nose. This procedure is called dacrycystorhinostomy. It's important to see your Eye M.D. for a full evaluation.

Answered by: Anne Sumers, MD Dr. Anne Sumers 

Categories: Eye Conditions

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Answered: Apr 03, 2013

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