For many new parents, it can be scary when their child comes home with a condition that’s not well-known. Although blocked tear ducts may be unfamiliar, the condition is an extremely common one that affects 1 in 3 babies born each year.
“The most common cause of blocked tear ducts in newborns is the failure of a membrane at the end of the tear duct,” explains Dr. Ahmad Bailony, a pediatrician affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “When this membrane is not fully developed in babies, the tear drainage system does not function properly, causing tears to overflow out of the eye.”
However, blocked tear ducts can happen at any age. Other causes of this condition include:
- Infection or inflammation
- Injury or trauma to the eye
- Tumors near the tear drainage system
- Certain eye drops
- Specific cancer treatments
Many cases resolve quickly and on their own. According to Dr. Bailony, 90 percent of these cases clear up within a few months. However, it’s important to monitor the situation as bacteria could form in the tear drainage system.
“The eyelids can become red and swollen with yellowish-green discharge when normal eyelid bacteria are not properly ‘flushed’ down the obstructed system,” says Dr. Bailony. “Severe cases result in a serious infection of the tear duct system. If you see swelling near the eye, contact your pediatrician.”