Unblock Your Tear Ducts

Minor cases of blocked tear ducts are easy to treat at home

If you're suffering from eye strain, dry eyes or allergies, knowing how to unblock a tear duct may offer relief. Even if your tear ducts aren't blocked, keeping your eyes properly lubricated will help stave off many minor eye ailments. 

Nasolacrimal ducts (the medical term for tear ducts) are part of the body's system for draining tears from the eyes. When they become blocked, it causes a backup of fluid in the lacrimal sac, which is highly prone to infection.

 

Symptoms of a Blocked Tear Duct 

There are a few indications that you may be suffering from a blocked tear duct. If you have excessive tearing, or there's a mucus or pus discharge from the eye, if the white part of your eye is red and swollen, or if your vision is blurred, a blocked tear duct may be the culprit. And if you have recurring infections such as conjunctivitis, or your vision is blurred, these are also signs of tear duct problems. 

While most blocked tear ducts won't require much more than the simple treatment outlined below, if you're having these symptoms for more than a week, or if they keep recurring, consult your doctor. In some cases, a blocked tear duct is a symptom of a larger, more serious problem. 

Who Is at Risk For Blocked Tear Ducts

Certain factors increase your risk of developing a blocked tear duct. If you have chronic eye inflammation, especially from conjunctivitis or other infections, it's likely to affect your tear ducts.

Older women tend to be at greater risk, as are those who have had eye or sinus surgeries. Some glaucoma medications can lead to blocked tear ducts as well. 

How Tear Ducts Get Blocked

There are numerous reasons for blocked tear ducts. Some babies are born with tear duct abnormalities, most of which resolve themselves as they get older.

 

An injury to the eye or nose can disrupt the tear ducts' function, and even something as small as dust or dirt stuck in the tear duct can cause problems. In rare cases, blocked tear ducts may be caused by a tumor. And tear duct blockage is sometimes a side effect of chemotherapy treatments for cancer. 

How To Unblock Tear Ducts 

All you'll need is some warm water and a clean washcloth or tea towel. ​

  • Pinch and rub your nose underneath the bridge
  • Place a warm, wet cloth over your eyes for 10 minutes
  • Repeat every 4 to 6 hours, if needed

If this treatment doesn't work, and you're still having problems, it's a good idea to consult a medical professional. There are other ways to treat more serious cases of blocked tear ducts. Sometimes antibiotic drops or ointment may be sufficient, but if the problem persists, it may be necessary to irrigate the lacrimal sac. This is done in a doctor's office as an outpatient procedure. 

In cases where the blockage is severe and doesn't respond to other treatments, a surgery called dacryocystorhinostomy may be required.