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What Are the Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Adults?

What Are the Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Adults? What Are the Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Adults? What Are the Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts in Adults?

Blocked tear ducts cause excessive tearing and eye irritation because the tears cannot drain normally, according to Typically, the tears drain out of small holes in the corner of the eye, and then pass through tiny tubes into the nose to be eliminated. A blockage anywhere in this drainage system will cause tears to back up and linger on the eye too long. This may cause eye infections, blurry vision, pain and bloody tears. Blocked tear ducts in adults are usually caused by infection, inflammation, tumor or injury. The best treatment will depend on the cause of the blockage.

First Treatments

In adults, the underlying cause of a tear duct blockage is treated first, according to MedlinePlus website. So if there is an infection, the patient will use warm compresses and take antibiotics. If there is a tumor, it will need to be removed or shrunk with other therapies. If the tear ducts are blocked because of a facial injury, which can cause swelling that stops up the tear drainage system, many doctors will treat the injury and try to reduce the swelling. Once the underlying problem has healed, most of the time, the tear drainage system will start working properly on its own, though that may take a few months. Many doctors recommend waiting up to six months before considering treatment while they monitor the situation to prevent complications.

Minimally Invasive Treatments

Several procedures are less invasive than surgery that can work for adults with only a partial blockage or narrowing of the tear ducts, according to Dilation and irrigation is a procedure that can be done in a doctor's office, in which the tear ducts are widened with a special instrument and flushed out with saline. Balloon catheter dilation is done under anesthesia and requires the doctor to thread a tiny tube with a deflated balloon on the end up through the nose and into the tear drainage system. The balloon is then inflated with a pump to widen the tear drainage tubes. Stenting is also done under anesthesia. A tiny silicone tube is inserted through the drainage holes in the eye down through the length of the drainage system into the nose. The tubes are left in for three to six months to prop open the drainage system. There is a risk of inflammation around the tube and a little bit of tubing remains visible in the corner of the eye, though most people aren't bothered by it.


Surgery usually works best for adults, according to It can be performed under general anesthesia or a local, and is usually done on an outpatient basis. The normal drainage system is bypassed and a new drainage system is created using tiny silicone tubes. The tubes are left in place for up to six months so that tissues can heal around them and create the new drainage system, and then they are removed. This is usually done through an open incision on the side of the nose in a procedure called an external dacryocystorhinostomy. This open procedure has the highest success rate for this type of blocked tear duct surgery, according to But the procedure can also be done in a closed procedure in which tiny instruments are inserted through the nose to create the new drainage system. Risks include bruising, bleeding, infection and swelling. Sometimes, scar tissue forms that blocks the new drainage system and the procedure has to be repeated, according to the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

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