How Do You Unclog a Tear Duct at Home?

Medically Reviewed on 2/1/2023
Tear Duct
A partial or complete blockage of the tear duct results in symptoms, which include excessive watering or tearing from the eyes.

A clogged tear duct can cause your tears to build up and overflow onto the cheek. It occurs when the tear duct, a tube that carries tears from the eye to the nose, becomes blocked.

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 newborn babies and generally gets unclogged on its own.

Some home remedies may help relieve the symptoms of a blocked tear duct. Always consult your doctor before trying any home remedies.

Five ways to unclog a tear duct at home

  1. Massage
    • Your doctor will tell you how and how often it must be done. Gently massage the tear duct using your fingers to encourage it to drain properly. Massaging the eye may help relieve the blockage in the tear duct. This is especially helpful 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. It can be repeated approximately ten times each in the morning and at night.
  2. Warm compresses
    • Apply warm compresses to the affected area to help open the tear duct and allow fluid to drain.
    • This can be done by using a clean, soft cloth and some warm water. Ensure 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 gently wipe away excess tears many times a day. Always wash your hands before doing the massage or touching your eyes.
  3. Saline solution
    • Clean the affected eye area with a saline solution several times a day to help clear any blockages.
  4. Increased tear production
    • Encourage increased tear production by drinking plenty of water and avoiding drying agents, such as smoke and wind.
  5. Nasal irrigation
    • Can help unclog tear ducts that are connected to the nasal passages. Fill a neti pot (a container or vessel used to rinse mucus or debris from the nasal cavity) with a saline solution, and use it to flush out the tear duct.
If you have any signs and symptoms of a clogged tear duct, you may consult a board-certified ophthalmologist to get the condition treated.

How do you unclog a tear duct in adults? 7 Ways

In adults, a blocked tear duct often results from an infection of the eyes, tear duct system, or nasal passages. Treatment typically requires a doctor's attention and may include antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.

Seven ways to unclog a tear duct in adults

  1. Warm compresses: Apply a warm, moist compress to the affected eye for several minutes several times a day to help open the blocked tear duct and improve drainage.
  2. Massage: Gently massage the tear duct, located at the inner corner of the eye near the nose, to help open it and improve drainage.
  3. Nasal decongestants: Using a nasal decongestant spray or drops can help clear out any blockage in the tear duct.
  4. Tear duct irrigation: Flushing the tear duct with a saline solution using a specialized irrigation device can help unclog the duct and improve drainage.
  5. Antibiotic eye drops: If the blockage is caused by an infection, using antibiotic eye drops can help clear it.
  6. Dilation: Dilation of the tear duct using a dilating solution or device can be performed by an eye doctor to help improve drainage.
  7. Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be needed to unclog a blocked tear duct, which can involve enlarging the tear duct opening or creating a new one.

It is always important to consult with an eye doctor to determine the underlying cause of a blocked tear duct and then decide the best course of treatment.


Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Symptoms, Causes, Treatments See Slideshow

Can a clogged tear duct heal on its own?

A clogged tear duct can sometimes heal on its own but not always. It depends on the underlying cause.

  • In some cases, a clogged tear duct is temporary and will clear on its own.
  • In others, it may require medical intervention, such as massage, irrigation, or surgery, to clear the blockage and restore normal tear drainage.

A clogged tear duct that does not clear on its own within a few weeks or causes persistent symptoms should be evaluated by an eye doctor.

How long does it take for a blocked tear duct to clear up?

A blocked tear duct usually clears up within the first few months of life, but in some adults, the time it takes to resolve varies and depends on the underlying cause. In infants, the ducts often open up on their own within the first six months of life. If it hasn’t improved after a year, a doctor may perform a procedure to open the blocked duct.

In adults, a blocked tear duct can take several months or even years to clear up. Treatment may include massage, warm compresses, or a surgical procedure to open the blocked duct. If the tear duct does not open on its own, the doctor may recommend a dacryocystorhinostomy, a surgical procedure that creates a new path, or a new tear duct to drain the tears between your nose and eyes.

What causes a clogged tear duct?

Clogged tear ducts are generally caused by inflammation or blockage of the tear duct. Inflammation can be caused by infection or a foreign body, such as dirt or an eyelash. Blockage can be caused by a birth defect, a tumor, or an injury. In some cases, the cause of the blockage is unknown.

Common causes of a clogged tear duct

  • Congenital narrowing: The tear ducts can be narrow from birth, making it difficult for tears to drain properly.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation of the tear ducts can cause them to become blocked. It can be caused by an infection, injury, or a foreign object in the eye.
  • Tumors: Tumors in or near the tear ducts can obstruct the flow of tears, causing a clogged tear duct.
  • Aging: As people age, the tear ducts can become narrower and less effective at draining tears, leading to clogging.
  • Dry eye syndrome: Dry eye syndrome can cause a buildup of tears, leading to clogging of the tear ducts.
  • Trauma: Trauma to the eye or face can cause the tear ducts to become blocked, either from injury to the ducts themselves or from swelling in the surrounding tissues.
  • Medications: Certain medications can cause dry eyes and lead to a clogged tear duct.
  • Systemic diseases: Certain medical conditions, such as sarcoidosis, lupus, or scleroderma, can cause inflammation in the tear ducts and lead to clogging.

What are the symptoms of a clogged tear duct?

Symptoms of a clogged tear duct can vary depending on the age of the individual and the underlying cause.

Generally, common symptoms include:

  • Excessive tearing: This is the most common symptom of clogged tear ducts, which can result in tears constantly flowing down the cheek, even when not crying. Tearing is the most common symptom of a clogged tear duct. This is due to the buildup of tears that are unable to drain from the eye properly.
  • Eye discharge: A person with a clogged tear duct may experience eye discharge that is thick, yellow, or green in color and sometimes crusty. This discharge is composed of bacteria, mucus, and pus.
  • Eye crusting: If the discharge is not wiped off, it can cause hard crusting on the eyelids and lashes.
  • Redness and swelling: Inflammation and swelling in the tear duct area can occur due to a clogged tear duct, causing redness and tenderness.
  • Eye pain: Mild discomfort or pain in the affected eye may be present due to a clogged tear duct.
  • Blurred vision: A clogged tear duct can cause the vision to become blurred, especially when blinking or closing the eyes. In severe cases, a clogged tear duct can cause vision problems, such as sensitivity to light.
  • Eye infection: A clogged tear duct can increase the risk of eye infections as stagnant tears can harbor bacteria.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's best to consult an eye doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

What are the treatment options for a clogged tear duct?

Treatment for a clogged tear duct depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the blockage.

Generally, treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: If an infection is causing the blockage, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the underlying infection.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a tumor or birth defect causing the blockage. Dacryocystorhinostomy is the most common surgery used to treat a blocked tear duct.
  • Stenting: This procedure involves inserting a stent or small tube, into the tear duct to keep it open and allow tears to drain properly.
  • Irrigation and probing: This procedure involves flushing out the tear duct with a saline solution and then probing it with a thin instrument to help break up any blockage.

The appropriate treatment is recommended by your doctor after a proper diagnosis and evaluation.

How can you prevent your tear ducts from being clogged?

Practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent your tear ducts from becoming clogged. If you experience eye discomfort, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Some steps to help prevent tear duct blockage are as follows:

  • Maintain good hygiene: Clean your eyelids regularly with warm water to remove any debris that may cause clogging.
  • Avoid irritants: Stay away from irritants such as smoke, dust, or strong winds that can cause dry eyes and increase the risk of clogging.
  • Use artificial tears: Using artificial tears regularly can help keep your eyes lubricated and prevent clogging.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes: Rubbing your eyes can cause damage to the ducts and increase the risk of clogging.
  • Treat underlying conditions: Treat any underlying conditions such as allergies, dry eye, or infection that can contribute to tear duct blockage.

Make sure to keep your eyes clean by regularly washing your face and eyelids with mild soap and warm water. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, and avoid exposing them to dust, smoke, and other irritants. Additionally, avoid poking or prodding at your eyes as this can damage the delicate tissue of your tear ducts. If you wear contact lenses, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting them.

If you experience persistent symptoms or problems with clogging, consult an eye doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.

Medically Reviewed on 2/1/2023
Blocked Tear Duct (Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction)

Blocked Tear Duct? What to Expect From Treatment

Blocked tear duct