How to Unclog a Clogged Tear Canal: 12 Steps

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How to Unclog a Clogged Tear Canal: 12 Steps
How to Unclog a Clogged Tear Canal: 12 Steps

If your eyes are watery and inflamed, your tear duct may be clogged. This can occur as a result of an infection or something more serious, such as a tumor. You can usually treat the problem using massage, but if more treatments are needed, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or recommend surgery to unblock the canal.


Part 1 of 3: Diagnosing a clogged tear duct

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Step 1. Know what causes a blockage in the tear duct

This condition, also known as dacryocystitis, occurs when there is an obstruction in the canal that connects the eyes to the nose. It is most common in newborns, but it can also happen in adults as a result of infections, lesions, or tumors. These are the most common causes:

  • Congenital blockage, which usually occurs in newborns.
  • Age-related changes.
  • Eye infections.
  • Injuries to the face.
  • Tumors.
  • Cancer treatments.
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Step 2. Recognize the symptoms of a clogged tear duct

The most common symptom is increased tearing of the eyes. Tears can flow to the face, be a little thicker than usual, and form scabs when drying. Other symptoms include:

  • Recurrent eye inflammation.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Secretion of mucus or pus-like substance on the eyelids.
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Step 3. See your doctor for a diagnosis

A physical examination by a professional is necessary to diagnose a clogged tear duct. While simple inflammation could be causing the blockage, it could also be the result of a tumor or other serious medical problem, so it's important to see a doctor.

  • To check for a blockage in the tear duct, the doctor will wash the eye using a colored fluid. If the tears don't flow normally and you can taste the liquid and feel it dripping down the back of your throat, this is an indication that there is a blockage in the channel.
  • The doctor will also ask you to describe the symptoms, which are very important in helping to rule out other eye conditions, such as congenital conjunctivitis and glaucoma.

Part 2 of 3: Unclogging the tear duct at home

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Step 1. Clean the area frequently

Use a clean cloth and warm water to remove the discharge several times a day so it doesn't interfere with your vision. This is very important if the discharge is being caused by an infection that could be passed to the other eye.

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Step 2. Apply a hot compress to promote drainage

It can open the tear duct and allow drainage to occur more easily. Press the compress against the top of the canal for three to five minutes, five times a day; continue treatment until the blockage is removed.

  • Use a towel dampened in warm water or dip a cotton ball in warm water or chamomile tea (which has calming properties) to create the compress.
  • Do not make the compress too hot or it may cause redness and pain.
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Step 3. Try massaging the nasolacrimal sac to unclog the channel and encourage drainage

Your doctor can show you in detail how to perform this massage on yourself or your child. To do this, place your index fingers in the inner corner of your eyes, near the sides of your nose.

  • Apply pressure to this point for several seconds, then release. Repeat this Step three to five times a day.
  • Always remember to wash your hands before massaging to avoid the risk of introducing bacteria into the eyes and causing an infection.
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Step 4. Put breast milk in the eyes to kill bacteria

This method is effective for babies with clogged tear ducts. Breast milk has antimicrobial properties that help fight local infections while also lubricating the eye and minimizing irritation.

  • Put a few drops of breast milk on your index finger, then let it drip into the affected eye. You can do this up to six times a day.
  • Again, it is very important that you wash your hands thoroughly before doing this to avoid introducing bacteria into your baby's eyes.

Part 3 of 3: Carrying out medical treatments

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Step 1. Take oral antibiotics to fight a tear duct infection

They will be prescribed to help with the blockage if an infection is the cause. Antibiotics are substances used to inhibit the growth of bacteria in a specific area of ​​the body.

  • Erythromycin is the most commonly used medication for clogged tear ducts. It prevents bacteria from growing and multiplying, interfering with the bacteria's protein-forming cycle.
  • The common dosage of erythromycin is one 250 mg tablet four times a day. However, it varies depending on the severity of the infection and the age of the patient, so follow the doctor's instructions.
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Step 2. Use antibiotic eye drops instead of oral medications

For less serious infections, antibiotic drops may be prescribed instead of pills.

  • To use the eye drops, shake the bottle well, tilt your head back and apply the recommended amount of drops to the eye. Close your eye for 30 seconds to a minute for the drops to be absorbed.
  • Always wash your hands before using drops to avoid transmitting bacteria to the eye. After applying it, wash your hands again.
  • For children, the instruction is the same, but help from another adult will be needed to keep the child from moving.
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Step 3. Irrigate and probe the affected tear duct

Dilation, tube and irrigation are minimally invasive treatments that can be used to unblock the tear duct. This procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes.

  • The procedure is performed by dilating two small holes in the inner corner of the eyes with a small metal tool. After that, a probe is inserted through the canal until it reaches the nose. When it reaches the nose, the passage is irrigated with a sterile liquid.
  • If you (or your child) are going to receive this treatment, it is important to avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen for the two weeks before surgery, as these medications could cause bleeding.
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Step 4. Consider intubation treatment

Intubation is another minimally invasive treatment option. Similar to tube and irrigation, the goal is to remove blockage in the tear duct. A general anesthesia is used to put the patient to sleep.

  • During the procedure, a thin tube is inserted through the nasolacrimal sac at the corners of the eyes until it reaches the nose. The tube is left in the canal for three to four months to allow drainage and prevent it from being clogged again.
  • The tube is barely noticeable, but after surgery, certain precautions must be taken to prevent infection. You should avoid scratching your eyes so as not to move or damage the tube, and you should always wash your hands before touching your eyes.
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Step 5. Undergo surgery as a last resort

When the tear duct cannot be unclogged using the above methods, it needs to be completely removed in a procedure known as dacryocystorhinostomy.

  • A dacryocystorhinostomy is done by creating a new connection between the tear duct and the nose, which allows the tears to drain.
  • A fistula is then inserted into the canal, serving as a passageway for tears.


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