Blocked Tear Duct: Massage and Hygiene

It's common for both infants and adults to have a blocked tear duct at some point. Here are some facts about the issue and how to treat it.
Blocked Tear Duct: Massage and Hygiene

Last update: 26 March, 2021

A blocked tear duct is a more or less frequent problem in both children and adults. While it’s true that the solution may sometimes require surgery, there are also other measures that you can use to try to solve the problem.

In this article, we’ll tell you some interesting facts about lacrimal obstruction and the importance of massage and hygiene in these cases.

What is lacrimal obstruction or blocked tear duct?

Our lacrimal or tear glands are responsible for producing tears. These are glands located at the top of the eye. From here, they expel tears to the surface of the eye, where they lubricate and protect the eyeball.

Once they’ve fulfilled their function, through blinking, we drain these tears through the tear duct, which is located in the lower part of the eye and communicates with the nostrils.

Lacrimal obstruction is, therefore, an obstruction at any point of this duct that serves to drain the tears. What happens is that, as they don’t drain, they accumulate in the eyeball, and produce, mainly, constant tearing.

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Blocked Tear Duct: Massage and Hygiene

Causes of a blocked tear duct

The obstruction of the tear duct can occur from birth, due to a defect in the formation of the tear duct. At the same time, it can occur in adulthood due to a variety of situations. Some of the pathologies that can cause obstruction are conjunctivitis, keratitis, trauma, etc. Many times, it’s impossible to identify the exact cause.

What symptoms does it produce?

The main symptom of a blocked tear duct is tearing. This tearing may be constant or occasional at times when the eye produces more tears due to some circumstance. The intensity of the symptom will vary depending on many factors, such as the following:

  • The degree of the obstruction of the duct. The obstruction can be partial or total. And the duct may drain some of the tears or not let anything through, causing the accumulation to be greater.
  • The condition at any given time. For example, in the presence of irritants to the eye, the glands will produce greater amounts of tears. As a result, the symptoms become more intense.

Obstruction may cause mucous or mucopurulent material to be produced. This constant accumulation of tears in the eyeball can also cause the duct to become infected, known as dacryocystitis.

Dacryocystitis will produce, in addition to tearing, swelling and pain in the area, and its treatment should be more aggressive.

Treatment of the obstruction

While in adults the obstruction produced by some pathology usually requires surgical treatment by a specialist, this isn’t the case in children.

When it comes to babies born with a blocked tear duct, an operation  usually isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s a problem that usually takes care of itself with the passing of time.

Blocked Tear Duct: Massage and Hygiene

In these cases, once the diagnosis is correctly made, it’s very important to carry out proper hygiene of the tear duct. This will be based on massaging the tear duct area to allow the tears to drain. These massages should be done 2-3 times a day.

In addition to these massages, it’s vital to keep the eye clean and dry of secretions that may be produced and accumulate. It should always be cleaned with a soft and clean material and with the help of physiological saline solution. In some more complicated cases, the specialist may prescribe antibiotic eye drops to prevent or help resolve the infection.

In the event that the specialist decides that the solution is surgical, this will be a very simple operation that will simply consist of draining the duct by means of a small tube.

The most important thing…

As always, it’s essential that you see a doctor if you notice any symptoms, either in an adult or in a child. In the case of children, it’s the pediatrician’s responsibility to explain to parents how to correctly massage and clean the duct.

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