Babies in utero have a thin membrane that seals the nasolacrimal duct. In newborns, a blocked tear duct may be the result of that membrane not opening as it should at birth.  

Another cause of blocked tear duct may be chronic nose infections. Chronic sinusitis may irritate the tissues and form scars, which block the tear duct system.

Other causes of blocked tear duct:

  • Abnormal development of the skull and face (craniofacial abnormalities), like those in Down syndrome or other disorders, increases the likelihood of blockage of the tear ducts.
  • Age-related changes in older adults can cause blocked tear ducts, including narrowing of the punctal openings.
  • Nose trauma, such as a broken nose; scar tissue can block the tear duct.
  • Nose polyps, a growth from the lining of the nose (affecting some people who have nasal allergies), can obstruct the tear duct system
  • Conjunctivitis, infection and inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the eye. In rare cases, the tear duct system may become infected and blocked, especially after some viral infections
  • Tumor, which may press on the tear duct system and prevent drainage.

If your eye has been watery and leaking or is continually irritated or infected, you should see your ophthalmologist.

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