Does your infant have peculiar crying habits? Do they tear up when they're happy, weep only from one eye, or cry without making any noise? If so, they may have a clogged tear duct, and you need to get them to an eye specialist for an examination.
How Common Are Clogged Tear Ducts?
Don't worry; clogged tear ducts in infants aren't uncommon. In fact, 6 out of every 100 babies born have at least 1 clogged duct. It's a hereditary condition, and there's a chance your or spouse could have had it your infancy and just weren't informed about it. It usually occurs as the result of the failure of the tear duct to fully develop in the womb; or because the nasal bone has developed a bit abnormally, thus resulting in added pressure on the tear ducts that blocks tears from flowing through it.
If Their Tear Ducts Are Clogged, Why Is Your Baby Crying So Much?
Just because your baby is shedding tears doesn't necessarily mean they are crying. The human eye naturally produced tears as a way to clean out the eye. Normally, you don't notice this slow, steady flow of tears because the tear ducts drain into the nasal cavity. It is only when an emotional response produces an excess of fluid or the tear ducts are clogged and fluid cannot drain that tears actually escape the eye and run down the face.
If your infant is crying without showing any other signs of distress, then they likely aren't upset and in need of a bottle, nap, or diaper change; they just have no other way to expel the natural fluid buildup in their eyes. If your baby cries only from one eye, then only one tear duct is clogged -- the one that is shedding tears.
What Should You Do?
The tear drainage system sometimes continues to develop in the months following a child's birth. There is a 90 percent chance that your infant's clogged tear duct(s) will open up on its own by the time your child has their first birthday. Still, it's important to take your child to an eye specialist, because clogged tear ducts are sometimes the sign of a more serious condition such as cancer or glaucoma.
If the eye specialist doesn't detect a more serious condition, they may recommend that you help coax your child's tear duct open with gentle massage. The eyes are very vulnerable organs, though, so do not attempt to perform an eye massage before discussing the correct way to perform it with the doctor. Because clogged tear ducts sometimes cause infections, the eye specials may also prescribe a course of antibiotics for your baby.
What If The Condition Doesn't Resolve Within A Year?
Continue to visit your infant's eye specialist regularly to monitor the condition. If no progress is shown after a year, the doctor may recommend an eye stent be implanted in the affected eye(s). This low-risk procedure is the same procedure used to relieve the pressure in glaucoma sufferers, and the stents are the tiniest devices (about 1 mm long) to ever be placed in a human body.
If you believe that your infant's clogged tear duct is causing them pain or discomfort but they aren't yet a year of age, then the eye specialist may recommend that a temporary stent be placed in their eye to relieve some of the pressure buildup from the ocular fluid and to keep your child comfortable while their tear system continues to develop. The stent can be removed once your child's ducts are fully functioning and they are able to drain tears into their nasal cavity without assistance.
If your baby has some strange crying habits, it's time to visit an eye doctor at a clinic like Country Hills Eye Center. Clogged tear ducts are a common condition that will usually resolve itself, but your baby does need to be examined to rule out more serious problems and monitored to ensure that no infections develops in the eye.