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Being born without completely formed tear ducts or blocked tear ducts can become a big problem for people. Without a normally functioning tear duct, the tears that form normally in the eye cannot drain properly. This results in the constant watering of the eye as well as the likelihood of development of infection in the area.

Blocked tear ducts are quite common newborns and often resolve on their own without any treatment whatsoever. If, however, the symptoms persist for a few months or even into adulthood then the conditions must be treated.

Symptoms

Incompletely developed tear ducts or blocked tear ducts will present with the following symptoms:

  • Excessive watering of the eye
  • Redness in the eye
  • Pain
  • Swelling of the corner of the eye
  • Mucus discharge near the eye
  • Blurred vision

Causes

The most common causes of a blocked tear duct are:

  • Incompletely developed tear ducts during birth.
  • Reduction in the opening of the duct with age
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Injury
  • Presence of a tumor pressing down on the duct and thus causing an obstruction
  • A tear duct may get blocked as a result of chemotherapy or radiation therapy during cancer treatment

While a blocked tear duct could occur to anyone, the most common demographic affected seem to be older women, possibly with a history of glaucoma.

Complications

If the tears becoming produced are not drained regularly then they become an ideal medium for the growth of bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms. The growth of these organisms will lead to the development of frequent and recurrent infections in the eye.

Treatment

The treatment of incompletely developed tear ducts and blocked tear ducts is very similar.

The first course of treatment is to try and eliminate any infection through the use of antibiotics. It is also advisable to use a massaging technique to try and remove any blockage from the tear ducts. Remember that antibiotics will only treat the current infection. They cannot remove a physical blockage of the tear duct which can lead to the return of the infection after some time.

If the use of antibiotics and massage is not successful then a procedure to probe the duct opening is performed. For infants, this procedure is conducted under general anesthesia while for adults it may be done on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia.

The idea is to physically probe the duct opening and removing any blockage. The duct is then flushed with saline to clear it completely.

If this also does not work then the obstruction may be particularly difficult to remove. Another highly successful method to treat the problem is the insertion of a balloon catheter o try and dilate the size of the tear ducts. Infants will once again be treated under general anesthesia.

For people whose tear ducts are particularly poorly formed, a surgical procedure called as dacryocystorhinostomy is performed. The surgeon will make an incision on the side of the nose and physically connect the tear sac to the nasal cavity by putting in a new stent where the passageway should have been.

Conclusion

The advent of modern medical techniques has made the problem of a blocked or incompletely developed tear sac easily treatable.  

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