If your child has recently complained of blurry vision or you've noticed he or she has a red, itchy eye, you may be dealing with a clogged tear duct. This condition can be painful and may lead to unpleasant crusting or discharge when your child wakes up in the mornings, as well as excessive watering and vision changes. What should you do to treat your child's clogged tear duct and prevent this condition from recurring? Will chronically blocked tear ducts permanently affect your child's vision? Read on to learn more about the causes of this relatively common childhood ailment, as well as what you can do to eliminate it for good.
What causes blocked tear ducts in children?
While a blocked tear duct can happen to anyone, they are fairly common in babies and toddlers simply due to their small size (and therefore the tiny diameter of their tear ducts). These tear ducts are designed to reabsorb the moisture constantly produced by eyes -- and like a drain clogged with hair or other debris, a tear duct that has been blocked can cause the affected eye to water excessively and become irritated.
A cold or other respiratory infection that causes your child to produce excess mucus could lay the groundwork for a clog, while in other cases your child may be more prone to blocked tear ducts due to the shape of his or her sinuses or the presence of a thin membrane covering the eye's "drain." In some rare instances, chronically blocked tear ducts may be due to a birth defect or even a small tumor or cyst near your child's sinuses.
Most blocked tear ducts are relatively minor events and will resolve themselves within a few days or weeks. During this time, moisturizing eyedrops or cold compresses can help reduce any of the bothersome symptoms your child may be experiencing. However, long-term or chronic blocked tear ducts can lead to infection, and are likely due to a structural issue or other complication that may need to be professionally treated.
What treatment options are available for your child's blocked tear duct?
The proper course of treatment largely depends on the specific cause of your child's blockage. If a blocked tear duct comes on the heels of a bacterial or viral illness, treatment will likely involve only careful cleaning of the area and prophylactic antibiotic eye drops to help ward off infection. In some cases, gentle facial or sinus massage can help break up any hard clots of mucus or other debris that is preventing the eye from properly draining.
However, if there is a structural issue at play (like a too-narrow tear duct or an impermeable membrane still covering the tear duct's opening), surgery may be the best option. You may also want to request an MRI or CT scan of your child's head and neck if he or she is dealing with chronically blocked tear ducts but no clear physical cause has been identified, simply to rule out the prospect of a tumor or other more serious problems.
If your child does require proactive correction of his or her blocked tear duct, this can take one of several forms. In mild cases, dilation or flushing may be the least invasive option -- your child will be put under local or general anesthesia and a thin needle will be used to poke a hole through the tear duct membrane and flush the area with saline solution. Once the dilation has taken place, your child's tear ducts should easily be able to handle any moisture his or her eyes can produce.
In more serious cases, implanting a thin plastic drain or stent just above the tear duct can help provide a route for tears until your child's body adapts and his or her tear duct begins functioning more effectively (usually after about three months). After this point, the stent can be removed.www.checdocs.org