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Blocked tear duct: The Alex

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What is a blocked tear duct?

Tears normally drain from the eyes to the nose through the tear ducts. Sometimes the ducts become blocked and this causes a persistent watery discharge from the eye. The blockage can be caused by a membrane of tissue, infection or inflammation of the eye.

Tear duct surgery

An operation is required to unblock your child’s tear duct. The operation involves inserting a small probe into the tear duct to clear the blockage so that tears can drain away.

Your child will be given a general anaesthetic for this procedure and will be asleep.

After your operation

Your child’s eye may feel a bit sore. They will have been given pain relief during the operation and will be able to have more pain relief on the ward if they are uncomfortable when they wake up.

Sometimes there might be bruising around the eye but this should settle within a couple of weeks. Your child may also experience nosebleeds but these should settle within a couple of days.

Occasionally, a small drainage tube is left in the duct to keep it open. If this happens the eye will continue to water until the tubes are removed approximately 3 to 6 months later.

Most children are able to go home on the same day as their operation.


  • Try not to let your child knock or rub their eye.
  • Try not to let your child blow their nose or sneeze vigorously for 2 weeks.
  • Clean the lashes with cooled boiled water and a strong, clean tissue as often as necessary.
  • Always wipe your child’s eye towards their nose to avoid moving the tubes.
  • Do not remove the drainage tubes.

Pain relief

It is important to give your child regular, simple pain medicine such as paracetamol and ibuprofen during the first 48 / 72 hours.

Paracetamol can be given again at:

Ibuprofen can be given again at:

Follow up / concerns and queries

The consultant will see you again in a couple of weeks. You will receive this appointment in the post.

Should you have any concerns or queries when you get home, please phone 01273 696955 and ask for the appropriate department.

Level 7 Day Case extension 62382: Mon / Fri 7:30 to 19:30

Pickford Ward extension 64881: 24 hours

Eye hospital A&E extension 63852: Mon / Fri 9:00 to 17:00

Orthoptics extension 64872: Mon / Fri 9:00 to 17:00


The official fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.

Our aim is to provide information that will help you understand your child’s injury and enable the appropriate after care.

There are lots of useful injury leaflets to download at the Royal Alexandra website.

Useful numbers:

NHS 111 24hr advice line

Practice Plus (Brighton walk-in Centre) 0333 321 0946

Practice Plus GP 0300 130 3333 8am / 8pm, 7 days a week

This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.

The information here is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Publication Date: November 2021

Review Date: August 2024

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