If the eyes are the windows to the soul, your tear ducts are the rain that keeps them clean and clear. Though often overlooked, these tiny tubes in your eyes are vital in maintaining eye health and comfort. The ducts help your tears drain normally and when blocked, it could cause discomfort and infection.

In this article, we look at the details of these small but essential tubes in your eyes and discuss how tear ducts and tears protect your eyes, keep them lubricated, and contribute to clear, healthy vision.

We also highlight natural formulas like the Ocuvital Eye Health supplement, which promotes optimal eye health and vision.

It’s essential to recognize the significance of the ducts before exploring a condition that can disturb this delicate eye balance. The main focus of this article is to present a guide to managing a blocked tear duct, including diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.

What Are Tear Ducts and What Do They Do?

The tear ducts are the thin tubes that connect the inner corner of your eyelids to the back of your nose. Also referred to as nasolacrimal ducts, they release a tiny amount of fluid when you blink to lubricate and protect the eyes.

The tear film drains through a series of openings in the ducts and into the nasal passages [1] under normal circumstances unless there is a blockage.

What Causes a Blocked Tear Duct?

Blocked tear ducts can develop for several reasons, depending on your age and existing conditions. The most common causes for a partial or complete blocked duct include:

  • Bacterial or viral tear duct infections
  • Injury or trauma to the eye or surrounding areas
  • Tumors
  • An underdeveloped tear duct at birth

How Can a Clogged Tear Duct Affect My Eyes?

Several issues can negatively impact eye health and comfort when you have a clogged tear duct. These are the most common symptoms:

1. Overflowing Tears

When the ducts are clogged [2] the tears can't drain properly. As a result, the liquid may build up in your eyes and overflow onto your cheeks, even when you're not crying. This constant tearing can be irritating and inconvenient.

2. Eye Irritation and Redness

The overflow of tears can irritate the surface of your eyes, leading to redness, discomfort, and a burning sensation. Some people may develop dry eye syndrome, which occurs when the ducts can’t produce tears.

3. Increased Risk of Infection

A clogged tear duct creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to an infection in the eye or duct itself. Infections can worsen other symptoms and cause additional problems like pain, swelling, and pus discharge.

4. Blurred Vision

In severe cases, chronic tearing can cause blurred vision due to the excess liquid on the surface of your eyes.

5. Crusting Around the Eyelids

Tears that don't drain can combine with mucus and dry, forming a crusty discharge around the eyelashes. This can be uncomfortable and may also increase irritation.


Who is at Risk For Developing a Blocked Tear Duct?

While anyone can develop a blocked tear duct, some people are more susceptible than others. The main risk factors include:

  • Age: Tear ducts naturally narrow as we age, so older adults are more prone to blockage. In addition, according to research [3], congenital duct obstruction can also occur in the first year of life.
  • Chronic Eye Conditions: These include blepharitis, dry eye, or conjunctivitis, all of which can inflame and narrow the tear ducts.
  • Past Eye Surgery: Previous surgery on the eyes, and particularly the tear ducts, is a significant risk factor.
  • Nasal or Sinus Problems: Chronic infections, polyps, or tumors in the nose or sinuses can affect tear drainage.
  • Certain Medical Issues: Conditions like Sjögren's syndrome or autoimmune disease can impact tear production and drainage.

How is a Clogged Tear Duct Diagnosed?

If you suspect that you have a blocked tear duct, discuss your symptoms and medical history with your physician. The doctor will perform a physical exam to check for redness, swelling, and discharge around your eyes, and may carry out a dye disappearance test or X-ray. Your regular healthcare provider can diagnose a clogged duct but for complex cases, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist.


How is a Blocked Tear Duct Managed or Treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications like infections and permanent damage to the ducts. While blocked tear ducts in babies often resolve independently, it's crucial to consult a doctor or ophthalmologist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Options for treating the condition vary depending on the cause and severity of the blockage, and may include:

  • Warm compresses and massage to help loosen mucus and debris
  • Antibiotic eye drops or oral medications for a tear duct infection
  • Probing with a thin wire to open up the blocked tear duct
  • Stenting with a small tube to keep the tear duct open in rare cases

Remember: This information is for educational purposes only and shouldn't be a substitute for seeking professional medical advice. If you suspect that you have a clogged tear duct, see a physician promptly.

Steps for Preventing a Blocked Tear Duct

Directly preventing tear duct blockages isn't always possible, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk. These are some of our best tips to prevent this issue.

Practice Good Hygiene

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially before you touch your eyes.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, because it may irritate the tear ducts and introduce bacteria.
  • Clean your eyelids regularly with a gentle cleanser to remove debris and bacteria.
  • Use oil-free eye makeup and non-irritating products and replace them regularly.
  • Avoid sharing eye makeup with others.

Treat Underlying Conditions

  • Treat eye infections immediately to prevent them from spreading to your tear ducts.
  • Manage chronic conditions with the help of your physician to decrease their impact on tear drainage.
  • Get regular eye exams to detect any issues affecting your eyes.
  • In addition, consider taking the Ocuvital Eye Health supplement daily for vision support and enhanced eye health, including the tear ducts. It includes an all-natural formula that can repair damage, improve eyesight, decrease strain, and maintain eye health as you age.


Can a blocked tear duct be cleared?

Yes, in many cases, you can clear a blocked tear duct. Treatment options vary depending on the severity and cause of the blockage. Non-surgical methods such as massage, warm compresses, and medications may sometimes be effective. However, surgical intervention may be necessary to clear the blockage if other methods fail.

Is surgery the only solution for a blocked tear duct?

Surgery is not the only solution for a blocked tear duct, but it may be the most effective option in cases where other treatments have been unsuccessful. Surgical procedures such as tear duct probing or stenting can often clear the blockage and restore normal tear drainage.

How serious is a blocked tear duct?

A blocked tear duct is not life-threatening, but it can cause discomfort, irritation, and vision problems if left untreated. In babies, a clogged duct may lead to persistent tearing and an increased risk of eye infections. Seek medical attention if you suspect you have this issue to get proper treatment and prevent complications.


The tear ducts play an important role in overall health. Although small, they keep your eyes clean and clear and should work well for life with proper care. As we said, clogged ducts are not always preventable, but you can take steps to lower your risk. Follow optimal personal hygiene habits and treat chronic eye conditions to avoid symptoms like blurred vision, dry eyes, and swollen ducts.

In addition to these helpful tips, we recommend taking the Ocuvital eye health supplement daily for vision support. Most importantly, see your healthcare provider or eye specialist regularly so they can identify issues with your eyes or tear ducts early.


1] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17260-blocked-tear-duct-nasolacrimal-duct-obstruction
2] https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/blocked-tear-duct#
3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580992/

Zuri Hawkins-Jarrett

Zuri Hawkins-Jarrett

Before deciding to attend the University of Georgia for undergrad and pharmacy school, Zuri knew she had a love of science and a passion for helping people. Although she changed her major several times, she finally landed in pharmacy, where she found her niche. After graduating from pharmacy school in 2016, she moved to Columbus, Georgia, where she completed two years of pharmacy residency training. In her second year, Zuri cared for insured and uninsured populations. These experiences highlighted the importance of patient education and how it affects a person's health outcomes. Zuri graduated from her residency program in 2018 and started as a clinical pharmacy specialist with Kaiser Permanente Georgia. In this role, she had the opportunity to provide direct patient care and education on various health conditions. Despite finding a job that spoke to her passion for helping others, she still felt she could do more. In 2019, Zuri enrolled at Emory University to complete a Master of Public Health with an emphasis on prevention science. One course, in particular, sparked her interest in an area she had never considered before – health communications. After finishing her Master's program, Zuri found a way to merge her pharmacy and public health backgrounds through health content writing.


  • Doctor of Pharmacy, University of Georgia
  • Master of Public Health – Prevention Science, Emory University
  • Post Graduate Year 1 Pharmacy Practice Residency, Piedmont Columbus Regional
  • Post Graduate Year 2 Ambulatory Care, Piedmont Columbus Regional


  • Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist


  • Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Kaiser Permanente 2018 – Present
  • Hospital Pharmacist, Piedmont Fayette 2019 – Present
  • Health Content Writer, The Melanated PharmD 2022 – Present
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Written by Zuri Hawkins-Jarrett

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