North County Laser Eye Associates

Too Many Tears: Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

At North County Laser Eye Associates, we offer comprehensive eye exams to help our patients maintain the best possible ocular health at every stage of their lives. While many of our patients are adults who require care for such conditions as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, we also provide care to younger patients, including children who are at risk for a range of eye diseases that are unique to their particular age group. One of the more common eye conditions faced by children is nasolacrimal duct obstruction.

We provide both diagnosis of and treatment for nasolacrimal duct obstruction at our San Diego eye care clinic. If your child displays any of the symptoms of this condition, we urge you to schedule an eye exam for him or her right away. We can restore his or her eye health and help to ensure that he or she enjoys a lifetime of good vision.

What is nasolacrimal duct obstruction?

Nasolacrimal duct obstruction is a condition in which the lacrimal drainage system is blocked in children. The lacrimal drainage system comprises small tubes through which tear fluid passes from the eyes into the nose via tiny openings on the edges of the lower eyelids. This is necessary to prevent an overflowing of tears from the eyes. Unless someone is crying heavily, the excess tear fluid usually has no real effect on the nose.

In the vast majority of cases, nasolacrimal duct obstruction is congenital. Approximately 5 percent of all healthy babies are born before their lacrimal drainage systems are fully functional. These babies have watery eyes even when they are not crying. Fortunately, in about 90 percent of these cases, the nasolacrimal ducts open within the first year of the child’s life.

However, the ducts can also become obstructed due to a build-up of tear fluid, which can lead to infection and, eventually, blockage that must be treated by a doctor.

How is the condition diagnosed and treated?

Our doctors diagnose nasolacrimal duct obstruction first by ruling out other, more serious conditions. Generally, if a child’s eyes are overflowing with tears, but are otherwise not red or irritated, nasolacrimal duct obstruction is the most likely cause. We further assess the quality of the tears. Usually, when a child has nasolacrimal duct obstruction, the tears are cloudy or even yellowish in color rather than clear.

The proper treatment for nasolacrimal duct obstruction depends on the severity of the condition. It is usually best to begin with the most conservative approach. The condition can often be treated with the application of a warm, moist washcloth followed by gentle massage, which our doctors can demonstrate to you. If the ducts are infected, antibiotics will be prescribed.

If more conservative approaches are not effective, there are surgical methods of opening the nasolacrimal ducts or even replacing the entire lacrimal drainage system. These surgical techniques, while they should be considered last resorts, are highly effective if they do become necessary.

Learn More about Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

To learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of nasolacrimal duct obstruction, please contact North County Laser Eye Associates today.