Blocked Tear Duct

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Two-year-old's blocked tear duct - surgery?

Sept 2008

Our angel is 28 months old and has been recommeded to have surgery to unblock his tear duct in one eye. The pediatrician hoped it would clear by 1 or 2 years but it hasn't. We saw a pediatric opthamologist who said the surgery is simple. Has anyone's child had it done? Are there alternatives? We don't want to put him under general anesthia but that is the only way it can be done. Any words from anyone who has been through this? concerned parents

Our son was born with both tear ducts completely blocked. We constantly cleaned and massaged the area, but he had a continuous yellow crust around both eyes and got lots of eye infections. We hated having to constantly give him antibiotics and worried about long-term damage to his eyesight. He would sometimes wake up screaming because his eyes had crusted shut. We opted to do the eye surgery when he was 11 months old, at Children's Hospital. It was a very positive experience, although totally nerve-wracking for his parents - our son was completely fine. The actual surgery lasted about 5 minutes, but it took him a while to wake up from general anesthesia. Then he was disoriented and upset for a couple minutes, but they had me hold and nurse him to calm him down, and by that afternoon he was 100% normal. The surgeon (sorry, don't recall his name), told us that the tear ducts would never have opened up on their own. Now he's 5 years old and has never had any recurrence. BUT our daughter, who isn't yet one, was born with one blocked tear duct. It's not nearly as severe and she hasn't had an eye infection yet. So we're monitoring it and hoping it will go away and will face a more difficult decision with her. I have to say, though, I think that the older the child is, the harder surgery will be for her emotionally - our son had no idea what was happening to him and never remembered it and that's a good thing. Good Luck

My son also had a blocked tear duct which we all suffered for months of eye infections and having to torture him with eye drops. I finally had the procedure done when he was about 11 months old. They told me (this was in Berlin) that after one year it becomes more difficult because of the build up of scar tissue. Here in the states I have also heard you should wait longer to see if it will clear. We were scared of the general anesthetic but it worked beautifully, the problem was gone forever. I highly reccomend doing it. I read through some of the old postings on the subject and I read nothing but positive outcomes. We also tried all the different massage techniques, they didn't help at all. Good luck! Hally

I didn't see your original post, but I wanted to tell you that my twin sons were both born with blocked tears ducts. They turn 3 years old this week and their eyes are now completely free and clear of blockage/infection. We never did go through with the surgery, though they were scheduled twice. Honestly, we were just too scared after nearly losing one of them at birth. One twin, in particular did have pretty bad symptoms at times, but gradually their eyes improved. One twin was clear before his second birthday and the other by 2-1/2. We loved Dr. William Good in Walnut Creek. He's has an excellent reputation and bedside manner, gave us all the facts and never pushed us. In our case I'm glad we waited. Best of luck whatever you decide! anon

Surgery for 18-mo-old's blocked tear duct

August 2006

Our 18 mth old son has one blocked tear duct and we've met Dr. Silkiss. With our insurance we can see anyone & while I've read the great reviews of Dr. Susan Day (CPMC) - everyone assures us this is a straightforward procedure & that Dr. Silkiss is excellent. We are in the east bay so Oakland is easier. Anyone had Dr. Silkiss do this surgery on their toddler/baby? Would you reccomend her? She'd do it at children's hospital in oakland.

Don't know about your doctor, but Dr. William GOod in San Ramon and San Francisco and Walnut Creek is the finest ped. ophthalmologist in Northern California. He's an excellent diagnostician and operated on 3 friends' children; two of whom had complicated issues and formerly failed eye surgeries from other physicians. Good luck

April 2005

My 22 months daughter has a block tear duck in one of her eyes. Her eye is always red and looks like she's crying or has pink eye. Our pediatrician recommended Dr. Kosiglu from Children hospital. We met with him and he said that if it doesn't go away by the time she is two, we will have to do a surgery to open the blockage. If you did decide to go through the operation can you recommend a name of a Dr. for a second opinion? Or the name of Dr. that did the operation on your child. If you saw and used the services of Dr. kosiglu what was your expierence? I did read the information on the web site, which was very useful, and I saw one Dr. name from WC. Would like very much to hear from more people about their experience. Thanks.
Clueless mom

I would recommend Rona Silkiss for a second opinion. She specializes in oculo-plastics, so she is not exclusively a pediatric ophthalmologist. But, for this procedure, I would recommend an oculo-plastics ophthalmologist opinion as well as a pediatric ophthalmologist opinion.

March 2003

My two and a half year old daughter was born with two blocked tear ducts. As an infant, she had chronic eye infections because of the constant moisture around her eyes. Since she was about one, the infections have stopped, but the ducts are still blocked. Her pediatrician referred her to a pediatric opthomologist, Eddy Tamuara at Kaiser Oakland.

Dr. Tamura has recommended a surgical procedure to open the ducts. He says to do it before she is three. I am not crazy about the idea of general anesthetic, (although the out patient procedure is only about 15 minutes), so I am a bit reluctant to do it unless it is necessary. He said that the risk of not doing it now, is that she will most likely have to have a silicon tubes in her eyes for a few months in the future, and if that doesn't work, she will have to do it again.

Has anyone gone through this? If so, what if anything did you do? If anyone did nothing, did the problem eventually resolve itself? Currently, my daughter doesn't seem particularly bothered, other than when she has a cold or it is windy. Finally, has anyone had any experiences (good or bad) with Dr. Eddy Tamura at Oakland Kaiser? Thanks much. Jenny

I don't have experience with your daughter's condition, but my child sees Dr. Tamura at Kaiser Richmond (he works there once every 2 weeks) and we are satisfied with his level of care. He is thorough, knowlegeable and has a positive attitude. Children like him and he is kind. His course of treatment has improved my child's vision and stabilized the condition. I hope this helps

Our daughter had blocked tear ducts as well when she was a baby. She had her surgery at Kaiser Pleasanton. I was mortified to have my daughter have general anesthesia as well, but all went well. The procedure itself only took about 5 minutes. Really, it's very quick. The harder part for our daughter was that she couldn't eat or drink anything for many hours prior to surgery. That meant she couldn't have anything when she woke up in the morning. Being an infant, she couldn't understand that, of course. We had to do a pretty serious job of distracting her. They gave her something pre-op to calm her down. She got pretty relaxed and went easily with the nurses. Again, the surgery doesn't take long. Post-op once the child comes out of the anesthesia they are really grouchy. I just rocked with her (they had a rocking chair in her post-op room) to calm her down and she slept for a long time. You do have to wait a few hours until it's safe to take her home. When she can eat, it's crackers and the like at first. Anyway, she was very tired that day and we just hung out at home and cuddled a lot, and she was totally fine. She hasn't had any problems with her eyes since. It is totally nerve-wracking to have your child have surgery, as minor as this one is. This was our first time and I was in much worse shape than my daughter. She did great. Good luck! Lori

3-month-old with clogged tear duct

May 2004

Our three month old has clogged tear ducts without any type of infection. The resulting eye discharge is copious and seems to bother him. While our pediatrician said this can go on for up to a year without any negative consequences, we are interested in finding out about other alternative treatment options to clear it up sooner. We have been massaging the tear ducts and have applied breastmilk without success. Any ideas? Tearful in Berkeley

Hi, We are the family that posted the note in April with the 15- month-old who had a clogged tear duct. We actually ended up going ahead with the surgery at Children's Hospital and although it was a bit stressful, it has been successful. Our daughter's tearing has basically stopped except for some very minor tears when she had a cold. Since your child is still so young, however, I would recommend waiting until 1 years old at least since he can grow out of it and especially since he has had no infection. We finally went ahead with the surgery because our daughter was getting many infections and it was getting more and more difficult to put drops in her eyes. She got the first infection around 4 or 5 months, so I'd definitely just keep a close look out. But I would recommend waiting. Good luck. kelly

We had the same problem with one of my daughters. I massaged the inner corner of eye few times a day,every day for about a week, with a little cotton pad (the kinds used in removing makeup) dipped in warm chamomille tea. I would start by applying the pad to her eye for 30sec and then massage it with circular motions. The warmth opens up the duct and the chamomille tea is a very good disinfectant. I would make a chamomille infusion every morning, store it in the fridge and use it throughout the day. I have never heard of the breast milk massage. My intuition tells me that bacteria would thrive in that breast milk left in or around the eye possibly causing infections. Simona

Our son also had this problem. We saw a pediatric ophthomolgist at Stanford (we were living near Palo Alto at the time) when my son was 18 months. He said we could wait but that it probably wouldn't get better and that the risk of not doing it was eye infections. We went ahead and had him open it up surgically. It was, of course, scary for all of us, but he had no lasting trauma. The surgeon said afterward that the clog was so bad that it would not have opened on its own. Ruth

Try hot compresses--a clean washcloth with water as warm as your son can tolerate--it worked well for me, but my tear duct was not a chronic problem...(I did it four or five times a day) ann

My daughter had a clogged tear duct when she was 2 months old and the doctor gave us an antibiotic drop and it went away in a couple of weeks. I have also heard that if you are nursing to gently put a little breast milk on the duct. Breast milk has an antibiotic property in it and has worked for many people to clear up the clogged tear duct as well. Jennifer

When massage and warm compresses don't do it, I find that homeopathic silica 6X (cell salt), 2-3 pellets a few times daily, can help open up the duct. The cell salts come in the soft tablets (like the teething tablets), and dissolve instantly in babys mouth, so there is no risk of choking. Good luck! Tara

Probe to clear baby's tear duct?

April 2004

I am looking for advice from parents of children who have suffered a clogged tear duct. We have a 15-month-old who has had this problem since birth and are considering probing to fix it as massage and various antibiotics have not worked. Any information you can share about your experience with probing and/or eye doctors to treat a clogged tear duct would be appreciated. Ronna

Our now 9-year old son had this problem at about the same age. At the advice of, I think, someone in La Leche League, my wife tried squirting a little breast milk in each eye (gently, of course!). After a day or so, the clogging disappeared, never to return! It seems that there is some anti-bacterial substance in the milk that cleared out whatever bacterial colony was clogging the duct. I can only guess that once the irritation was gone, the duct widened enough that the free flow of tears kept it from re-occurring. If it doesn't work for you, at least it's quick and harmless! Good Luck!

Our son was diagnosed with a clogged tear duct and we decided not to do anything much. We did some massage (not very diligently) but eventually the problem disappeared, probably by the time he was four. I'm glad we waited it out. Lisa

We had the same situation 14 years ago with my daughter. The pediatrician cleared the tearduct during an office visit (at about 13 months), by running the tip of her fingernail firmly up the side of the baby's nose, where the duct was located. The clog popped out and the problem never recurred. While I wouldn't recommend doing this yourself, your pediatrician might be willing to give it a try before scheduling a more invasive probe. Heather

After many months of massage, breast milk, etc, my son's tear duct did not clear up either. At 9 months old, we had the surgical probe done to open the duct. Our Ped referred us to Gordon Smith at 130 La Casa Via, Bldg 1, Ste 205 in Walnut Creek 925.943.1431. HE WAS AWESOME!! My son had trust in him, as did my husband and myself and we have had no issues since. Dr. Smith told us that whenever a cold or a reason his sinuses swells, we will have minor issues, but it is minimal and has now been a year. No more red skin rashes from the moisture build up around his eye, no more gunk, no more looking like he's crying or has pink eye!! We are so glad we did it. The procedure was in and out and there was minimal pain and barely a bruise afterwards. He was back at his home day care two days later! Dr. Smith told us that if massage, etc doesn't help by six months, it won't clear up on its own. Good luck to you. LogicalMama

Our son had the same problem. We were told that as he grows older, the diameter of the duct might increase, and solve the problem. But there were no guarantees. So we decided to have the surgery when he was about 15 months. We figured it would be more difficult when he was older. The surgery went fine, but of course we were worried, especially about the general anesthesia. It was over in 45 minutes, and he was a little cranky when he come to. We had it done at Children's hospital, and they were great. Anon

Hi there - My, now 3 year old had a clogged tear duct. We took him at 18 months to Dr. Susan Day in SF. We were concerned about anastegia and really wanted to put surgery off. By 2 years old, he really was only tearing when he had a cold. He now still is teary sometimes, but 85% of the time he is fine. My peditrician said it is very rare that a child will outgrow this condition past 1, but waiting worked for us. However, I do understand the surgery takes less than 15 minutes and is relatively low risk. Julie

Our son had a clogged tear duct off and on till he was about two, and then it stopped happening. At the time, it seemed like such a long time for it to be going on. We did consider surgery but just procrastinated and eventually it went away. Now, in retrospect, I hardly remember it as a problem. Anon

Husband's Leaky Eye

June 2003

My husband has been suffering with a leaky eye for a few years. He has seen half a dozen opthomologists, who all just suggested massaging the tear duct and taking drops for dry eye. Nothing has worked, and it is driving him nuts. Can anyone suggest a specialist who has successfully treated this condition? He is willing to try anything (even non-traditional medicine), but we need some help with this soon! Just sign us... Tearful

I don't know if your husband has tried either of the Dr. Sorenson's (they're brothers I think), across the street from Alta Bates. My mom has had a blocked tear duct similar to your husband's problem many times, and Dr. Sorenson has opened the tear duct by carefully threading a tiny probe through the tear duct after numbing the area with anesthetic drops. Good luck. Gayle