Children’s Eye Problems
Blocked Tear Drainage
Tears normally drain from the eyes down into the nose via a tear drainage passageway (this is why your nose runs when you cry.) This passageway begins at the little hole in your eyelids, one in your upper and one in your lower lid, near the inner corner. These holes are the openings of tiny tubes under the skin that lead horizontally into a “lacrimal sac” then vertically into the nose. It is extremely common for this tear drainage system not to have fully opened at birth. If this is the case, then the tears which are made by glands around the eye and which normally flow from the eye down into the nose, cannot flow into the nose, and the eye will well up with tears. In addition, the bacteria that we all have around our eyes then overgrow, producing discharge. This discharge may make the eyelids red and raw.
Most children who have this problem get better by six months of age, and of those that aren’t better by six months, many get better by 12 months, so that by 12 months of age the heavy majority of children with this problem have gotten better. Nevertheless, the problem is so common that a lot kids still have it at a year of age. If it persists at this age, it is very unlikely to go away on its own, and a procedure is needed. This procedure is called a probing, and involves passing a thin blunt-tipped metal rod through the tear drainage system to relieve the blockage. It involves no cutting and takes less than five minutes to do, but does require a brief general anesthesia. In about 90% of the cases only one probing is needed.