A blocked treat duct describes a partial or complete blockage in the tear duct system. This duct system carries tears away from the surface of the eye, into the nose

Alternative Names

Dacryostenosis; Blocked nasolacrimal duct

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tears from the surface of the eye are normally drained into the nose by a convoluted tube called the nasolacrimal duct. If this duct is blocked, the tears will accumulate and overflow onto the cheek, even when a person isn't crying

In children, the duct may not be completely developed at birth. This problem often disappears on its own. In adults, the duct can be damaged by infection, injury or tumor


The symptom is increased tearing, which overflows onto the face or cheek

Signs and tests

Standard ophthalmic exam
Internal examination of the nose
Fluorescein eye stain to observe the drainage of tears
Special X-ray studies may be done to study the duct


For children with incomplete nasolacrimal duct development, massaging the lacrimal sac area several times a day, as instructed by an ophthalmologist, may be enough to open the tear duct. Persistent cases may require opening by a probing procedure. This may occasionally require anesthesia

Adults require treatment of the cause of the blockage. This may re-open the duct if there is minimal damage. A surgery to reconstruct the passageway may be needed to re-establish normal tear drainage, and stop the overflow onto the cheek


Congenital present at birth tear duct blockage often clears by itself by 6 months of age. If it does not clear on its own, the outcome is still likely to be good with treatment

Tear duct obstruction in adults has a variable outcome depending on the cause


Tear duct blockage may increase the risk of eye infections


Many cases cannot be prevented. Proper treatment of nasal infections and conjunctivitis may reduce the risk. Safety measures may reduce the risk of trauma that can cause blockage