While health problems related to our eyes and vision are often associated with old age, children are also at risk of suffering from certain issues. For example, as many as one-third of all babies are born with an underdeveloped tear-duct system. Tear ducts are a vital part of good eye health. If they are unable to function properly, children may need medical care to address tear-duct blockages caused by this underdevelopment.
About Blocked Tear Ducts In Children
The term “blocked tear ducts” refers to an issue where small tubes known as tear ducts never develop properly or never completely open. In a healthy eye, tear ducts help tears and other fluids drain from the eye. A blocked tear duct, however, prevents the flow and drainage of those fluids. As a result, the duct and tear sac in the eye may become swollen, inflamed, or infected due to the fluid backing up within them.
Unfortunately, while a blocked duct can strike at any age, they are most common in infants. In fact they affect about 6 out of 100 newborns. And unlike many eye health issues, which are preventable, blocked tear ducts at this age tend to be related to growth and development issues. Some experts think family history may also contribute to the risk of a child suffering from this condition.
Symptoms Of Blocked Tear Ducts In Children
In many cases, only one eye at a time is affected by this condition. Symptoms that parents and doctors may notice in children as this issue develops include:
- Excessive tearing. If a duct is blocked, a child’s eye may look particularly watery due to fluid build-up. Some children may continuously have tears running down their face as well.
- Build-up. Children dealing with a blocked duct may develop yellow or white build-up in the corner of their eye.
- Stuck eyelids. Children may have trouble opening their eyes, due to the pressure and build-up of fluids or other substances related to the condition.
- Swelling or redness. Due to pressure or infection, a blocked tear duct may create redness or swelling around a child’s eye(s) or nose. In cases of infection, children may also experience fever, pain, increased mucus drainage from the nose, or pus drainage from the eye.
It’s especially noteworthy that these symptoms are likely to present within days or weeks after a child is born. If a tear duct is blocked, parents and doctors will know about it sooner rather than later.
Treating Blocked Tear Ducts In Children
The good news is that a blocked tear duct in a child will often resolve itself within the child’s first year. During this time, parents will be able to assist in treating the issue at home, primarily by helping to keep the affected area clean.
In some cases, young children may need to undergo surgery to address the problem. For example, what is known as a “probing procedure” may be carried out to open the duct, if it does not clear on its own. Probing successfully opens a blocked duct in about 80 out of 100 cases of the condition.
In some cases, if necessary, doctors may look into stenting or intubation to help address a blocked duct. During this process, tiny tubes are threaded through a child's drainage system, to help fluid drain and unblock the system. Stenting can help keep a child comfortable by reducing the tearing and discharge.
If, however, a blocked duct does not resolve naturally or with stenting, your doctor will recommend more complex surgery to address the issue. The procedure, known as a dacryocystorhinostomy, is rarely performed in children, but is sometimes necessary to assist in resolving this condition. During this surgery, surgeons create a new route for tears to drain through a child's nose, bypassing the blocked duct. Stents or intubation are also often included in this procedure, and used temporarily to assist in the draining of fluid.
At Everett & Hurite, we believe in using the latest techniques of tear duct surgery using an endoscope. Ultimately, though, the exact steps needed during a child’s care and surgery will be decided on a case by case basis.