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Why Are Your Tear Ducts Blocked?

Most of us probably associate tear production with being really sad or really happy. Actually, though, you produce tears all day long. In fact, your tear system plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyes and clear vision. A blocked tear duct can have serious consequences.

Top eye doctor Rand Rodgers, MD, offers state-of-the-art tear duct treatment at his offices on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and in Great Neck and New Rochelle, New York. 

Dr. Rodgers uses advanced diagnostic techniques to determine the cause of a blocked tear duct, then tailors your treatment for long-term relief and better eye health. Here’s how to tell if you might have a blocked tear duct.

How your tear system works

Your tear system (also called the lacrimal system) has several components. The lacrimal glands above each eye produce tears, releasing them through tiny openings or ducts.

Your upper lid distributes those tears every time you blink. Excess tears and any debris on the eye surface are drained through tiny openings (puncta) in the inner “corners” of your eyes. 

The production, distribution, and drainage of tears are important for keeping your eyes moist and healthy. But sometimes, a duct gets blocked, and tears are no longer able to drain. When that happens, you might notice excessive tearing as the tear fluid overflows your lower lids.

Why ducts get blocked

Blocked tear ducts occur in people of all ages. In fact, about 20% of newborns have a blocked tear duct, a condition known as congenital lacrimal duct obstruction. In children and adults, a blocked tear duct is an acquired condition, associated with more serious underlying issues.

Sometimes, a duct can become blocked by a tiny particle of dirt or grit that lodges in the eye and migrates into the ducts. Other times, tear ducts can be blocked by tumors or other growths, by an injury to the eye or nose, or even from some medical treatments, like chemotherapy.

Most often, however, an infection causes tear ducts to become blocked.

Blocked ducts also are more common with age. As you get older, the tiny openings and canals that allow tears to drain from your eyes get narrower, making it easier for blockages to occur.

Once a tear duct is blocked, the entire tear system is affected. When your tears don’t flow and drain properly, you may experience symptoms like:

Without proper drainage, bacteria can collect inside the lacrimal gland or other structures of your eye. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent the infection from spreading.

Treating a blocked tear duct

Your tears are essential for keeping your eyes moist, clean, and free of harmful germs. Once Dr. Rodgers determines the cause of your blockage, he develops a treatment plan aimed at opening the blocked duct so your tears flow freely again. 

That might mean removing a foreign particle, prescribing medication to clear an infection, or performing a simple in-office procedure to unclog the duct. In some cases, Dr. Rodgers inserts tiny tubes to keep the drainage channels open.

Don’t ignore the symptoms of a blocked tear duct. Prompt management is important for keeping your vision clear and preventing more serious eye problems. To schedule an office visit, call one of our three locations. We offer virtual visits, too.

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