If your infant has goopy or watery discharge coming from one eye, it’s probably the result of a blocked tear duct (fancy name: a “nasolacrimal duct obstruction”).

What Do Our Tear Ducts (aka Nasolacrimal Ducts) Do?

They help drain the tears that collect in the inner corners of our eyes. The tears travel through our nasolacrimal ducts and get dumped into the back of our nose. If one of your baby’s nasolacrimal ducts gets clogged up, it won’t be able to drain his/her tears effectively and his/her eyes will get goopy and watery. (Check out the nasolacrimal duct in the pic below).

The Silver Lining: Even though nasolacrimal duct obstructions are pretty common, they’re not usually a big deal.

What Can Be Done About My Baby’s Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction?

  • First, call his/her pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other causes of goopy eyes (such as pink eye). 

    Double Take: With pink eye, babies usually have goop draining from both eyes and the whites of their eyes are red.
  • Second, know that a whopping 90% of nasolacrimal duct obstruction cases resolve on their own.1

    You can help move things along by gently massaging the inner corner of your child’s eye daily to try to open up the tear duct. 

    If the obstruction doesn’t resolve by 6 months of age (or so), your baby will be referred to an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor). The ophthalmologist may have to surgically open up the blocked tear duct to fix the problem. This is typically done between 6-10 months of age. 

    Note: Although the procedure is minor, it does require sedation. 

The Bottom Line

A blocked tear duct is a common and relatively benign eye condition seen in babies under 1 year, that typically goes away on its own.