Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Blocked tear duct

Monday, August 4, 2008
An ophthalmologist (eye specialist) can firstly determine just what is causing the blockage. Then, if necessary, the blockage can be gently opened.

Question:
My nine-year-old son has a blocked tear duct and it's been like that for more than two years. Our doctor has said it might unblock itself. I would like to have a second opinion as my son is upset by it, because it looks as if he is crying all the time from his left eye and he gets teased.

Answer:

I totally understand your concern about your son's blocked tear duct. A constantly teary eye can certainly be upsetting for a young boy who is unfairly teased. Basically, a blocked tear duct (nasolacrimal duct) is a fairly common problem in small children. If the duct is too narrow (often from birth), tears do not drain properly down the duct from the eye to the nose. Instead, tears roll down the face.

While it is true that some small children grow out of this or that it can unblock itself, if a blocked duct persists or it appears in an older child, a little intervention from an eye doctor may be required. An ophthalmologist (eye specialist) can firstly determine just what is causing the blockage. Then, if necessary, the blockage can be gently opened.

If a condition is ongoing, it is reasonable to request a second opinion from an eye specialist. To do this you will need a referral from your GP. If you are happy and comfortable with your doctor, it is great to stick with your regular GP for continuity of care. Given your situation, I am sure your GP will be understanding and help facilitate another opinion, but if not, another GP can help. An eye specialist will be able to work out just what is best for your son. And I am sure your son is keen to get rid of his eye duct condition once and for all.

Answer published 4/08/08


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