Overflow Tearing and Chronic Eye Infections In Infants.
Tears are produced by the lacrimal glands. They flow down across the eye along the lid margins and are spread across the eye by blinking.
Tears drain from the eye through two small openings called the upper and lower punctum which are located on the eyelid near the nose.
They then flow into the lacrimal sac. From the sac, the tears are pumped by the blinking action of the eyelids into the tear duct into and into the nose.
What Is Overflow Tearing?
This is a common condition. Nearly one-third of babies are born with an overabundance of tears and mucus.
This may cause the babies eyelashes to stick together after sleep and may potentially cause the eye to become chronically infected.
What Causes Overflow Tearing?
Punctal Stenosis – the punctum may be closed by the presence of a persistent membrane that blocks the lower end of the tear duct.
Normally the membrane opens at or before birth. However, in some babies the membrane remains closed and clogs the drainage system.
Wind, pollen, smoke or chemical irritation – may cause overflow tearing.
How can a Watering Eye be Treated?
Antibiotics – drops or ointment.
Massaging – the lacrimal sac daily to encourage flow:
- Place a finger under the inner corner of the infant’s eye next to the nose.
- Roll the finger over against the bony side of the nose.
- This helps to express mucus and tear from the sac
Most blockages in infants will resolve spontaneously by six months of age.
If symptoms persist the infant may have to have the sac and duct probed under general anaesthetic.
How Is Probing of the Tear Duct Performed?
- A thin metal wire is gently passed through the drainage system to open any blockage.
- Fluid is the irrigated through the system to ensure the duct is open.
- The infant should experience no pain after the procedure, but some blood staining of the tears may occur upto a week afterwards.
- If this fails and the blockage persists surgery may be required once the infant is older.