In children whose nasolacrimal duct has not developed fully, massaging the area several times a day may be enough to open the tear duct. Cases that do not improve may need to be opened by a probing procedure. This may require anesthesia.
In adults, the cause of the blockage must be treated. This may re-open the duct if there is not much damage. Surgery to reconstruct the passageway may be needed to re-establish normal tear drainage, and stop the overflow onto the cheek.
Tear duct blockage that is present at birth (congenital) often clears up by itself by the time the child is 6 months old. If it does not clear on its own, the outcome is still likely to be good with treatment.
The outlook for a blocked tear duct in adults varies depending on the cause.
Tear duct blockage may increase the risk of eye infections.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
See your health care provider if you have tear overflow onto the cheek, because a tumor is one of the possible causes. Earlier treatment is more successful, and may be life-saving.
Blocked tear duct : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Blocked tear duct : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests
Blocked tear duct : Treatment
Review Date : 8/1/2008
Reviewed By : Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.