The tear duct system is a sophisticated arrangement of tubes and glands in your face, designed to carry tears through the eye and nasal cavity. As with any type of drainage system, it can become blocked which requires eye doctors to intervene.


A blocked tear duct can be caused by a few different factors. Trauma to the eye area, a tumor, or infection can all compromise the drainage system in an adult. Occasionally, infants will be born without a fully developed tear duct system, which can behave in the same way as a blocked duct.


The most common symptom presented by a blocked tear duct is excessive tearing. For sufferers, eyes will water persistently with tears spilling onto cheek areas. Other tear-related signs can include a change in the appearance of tears, with them having a thickened, almost syrupy texture; tears may also become dried and crusty. Eye doctors will observe redness, swelling and inflammation, plus chronic infections in a patient with a blocked duct, as well as hearing reports of intense pain in the eye area.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose blockage in the tear duct system, eye doctors will perform an eye exam. A fluorescent eye stain may be used on the patient to show the location of the blockage. X-rays may be conducted, though this form of diagnosis will typically be used only if there has been some injury or trauma to the eye area.

For tear duct issues in infants, the majority of patients will eventually recover as the duct system develops. Adults may have a much more complex course of treatment. Eye doctors might first recommend massaging the area and applying warm compresses to break up the blockage, but more often than not surgery is necessary to remove the blockage and repair any damage to the tear duct system.

Tear ducts are a delicate drainage system that can become compromised without warning. Always consult your eye doctor as soon as you notice any change in your eye health. Early diagnosis and treatment can help minimize the pain and duration of a clogged duct so you can save your tears for more joyful occasions.