How Do You Unclog a Tear Duct at Home?

Medically Reviewed on 12/28/2020

What causes a tear duct?

Tear Duct
A partial or complete blockage of the tear duct results in symptoms, which include excessive watering or tearing from the eyes.

The eyeball is kept moist and clean by tears, which are produced by the tear glands (lacrimal glands) present under the skin of the upper eyelids. Excess tears are drained into the back of the nose by a tube-like structure called the tear duct or nasolacrimal duct. The tear duct may be blocked partially or completely because of various reasons, which include:

  • Congenital blockage of nasolacrimal duct (the baby is born with a blocked tear duct)
  • Infections
  • Inflammation of the tear duct
  • An injury like fracture of the nasal bones or eye injury
  • Age-related changes
  • Nasal polyp (a noncancerous growth inside the nose)
  • Tumors
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Certain eye drops (such as the long-term use of certain eye drops to treat glaucoma)

What are symptoms of tear duct?

A partial or complete blockage of the tear duct results in symptoms, which include:

  1. Excessive watering or tearing from the eyes. Parents may notice that their child has watery eyes even when they are not crying.
  2. Irritation in the eyes that may lead to frequent eye rubbing
  3. Redness of the white of the eye
  4. Crusting of the eyelids
  5. Frequent eye infections
  6. Mild eye pain
  7. Blurry vision

Home Remedies to unclog a tear duct

The treatment of a blocked tear duct depends on factors, such as the person’s age and the cause of the blockage. A blocked tear duct is often seen in new-born babies. It generally gets unclogged on its own. If you have any signs and symptoms of a clogged tear duct, you may consult a board-certified ophthalmologist to get the condition treated. Some home remedies may help relieve the symptoms of a blocked tear duct. Always consult your doctor before trying any of the home remedies.

One important home remedy is the tear duct massage. Massaging the eye may help relieve the blockage in the tear duct. Your doctor will tell you how and how often it must be done. This is helpful especially in relieving tear duct blockage in infants and children. Place a clean index finger between the inner corner of the eye and the side of the nose. Gently slide the index finger downwards while massaging the side of the nose. You can repeat it around 10 times in the morning and 10 times at night.

You may also use warm compresses to relieve itching and irritation. This can be done by using a clean, soft cloth and some warm water. Make sure that the water is not too warm when using it on children. Soak the cloth in warm water and remove excess water by wringing it. Use it to clean the eyes and wipe away excess tears from the eyes gently many times a day. Always wash your hands before doing the massage or touching the eyes.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops if there is an infection. They may also give medications to relieve other symptoms, such as itching and pain.

A blocked tear duct in adults needs attention from an ophthalmologist who can manage the condition by various methods depending on the cause of the blockage. Some of the procedures done by the ophthalmologist for opening a blocked tear duct include:

  • Tear duct probing (a thin metal instrument called a probe is used to unclog the tear duct)
  • Balloon catheter dilatation (a thin and flexible tube called a catheter that expands like a balloon is used to remove the blockage)
  • Intubation (tiny tubes are used for opening the blockage)

If the blockage is due to a nasal polyp, surgery (nasal polypectomy) may be done. A surgery called dacryocystorhinostomy or DCR may be done to provide passage to the flow of tears to the nose.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/28/2020
Kids Health. Tear-Duct Blockage.

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