Why blocked tear duct common in infants?
Blocked tear ducts mostly affects newborns during their first year of life. Worldwide, 6 out of 100 infants suffer from blocked tear ducts in their early age. As their tear duct is blocked, the result is watery eyes and crusted drainage after overnight sleeping. In most cases, it is found that blocked tear duct in infants does not normally cause vision problems.
Blocked tear duct is common with newborn babies since their nasolacrimal duct located in the nose, which has a vital function of draining tears from the eyes has not fully develop. This duct might not fully open in baby’s early age, causing improper tear draining. However, this duct is going to open fully within the first year of baby life without any specific medical treatments.
What causes blocked tear ducts?
In infants, blocked tear duct is mostly caused by undeveloped nasolacrimal duct in the nose. However, there are some other risk factors which may lead into tear duct clogs, which include:
- Enclosed thin tissue at the end of nasolacrimal duct
- Abnormal nasal bone growth which suppresses the nasolacrimal duct, causing tear duct blockage.
- Enclosed or not-fully-developed upper and lower tear ducts in the eyes, which drain tears into the nasolacrimal one.
What are the effects?
Blocked tear ducts in infants do not usually cause any harmful effects. This issue will also vanish within 12 months, since the blocked tear duct, in most cases, opens up on its own. Since newborn babies do not produce tears until they are several weeks old, the effects of blocked tear duct might not be observed immediately after birth. In most infants, clogged tear ducts lead to watery eyes. Hence, although not dangerous, blocked tear duct still requires proper treatment to prevent further potential effect such as infection.
What symptoms can be spotted?
Babies experiencing clogged tear duct might show some symptoms which can be visible. These symptoms include:
Watery eyes and tear build up on the corner of the eye.
Since blocked tear duct may affect lacrimal, puncta, or nasolacrimal ducts, tears cannot be drained properly. As a result, you will see tear build up causing infants to have watery eyes. This tear build up is usually located on the corner of the eyes, through which it should be drained.
Harden tear crust after overnight sleep.
Tears which are not drained properly causes build up on the eye corner, which when left overnight, is going to harden and form light-colored crust. This crust needs to be cleaned regularly. Wiping it off with a damp towel soaked in warm water is beneficial in getting rid of the crusted tears.
Crusted tears, however, do not occur merely on the eye corner. With excessive production of tears which won’t drain, eyelids are also prone to crusted tear formation. When these crust form in between the eyelids, it brings the lids to stick together, causing sticky eyes in infants. Applying a dab of breast milk is helpful in separating sticky eyelids in newborns.
In tears, bacteria are present, so that failing to clean up tear build up and crusts might lead to infection, which is signed by some symptoms, such as:
- Severe itching, which is signed by excessive rubbing and scratching done by the baby.
Warm compresses might be helpful in reducing itching sensation, which is a common early sign of infection.
- Thick, pus-like drainage
Watery eyes in infants caused by undeveloped tear duct should only cause clear discharge. However, bacteria might contaminate and cause pus-like discharge, which is also a sign of infection. Antibiotic drops prescribed by a pediatrician might be required to get rid of these pus-like discharge.
- Redness and swelling
Although may cause sticky eyes, a usual blocked tear duct does not cause pink eyes and swelling. If infants experience this, it might be caused by infection from bacterial contamination, which should be immediately treated. First aid, such as cold compress might be helpful for reducing inflammation and redness before getting further medical help.
Severe infection is signed by elevating temperature of the area and the entire body. If this symptom presents, see the doctor immediately.