A tiny channel called a tear duct runs from the inner corner of each of your eyelids to the inside of your nose^1^. Usually, your tear ducts drain away the tears and mucus that your eyes produce naturally, without you even knowing. However, if your tear ducts become infected, this drainage system may not work properly and you may start to produce lots of extra tears as well as discharge (pus). The inner corner of your eyelid may also become red and swollen^2^. Tear duct infection (dacryocystitis) can happen at any age but is most common in babies^2^.
Your tear ducts can become infected if they are blocked and bacteria are allowed to collect and multiply in them. Sometimes this can happen because of the way your bones have developed around your tear ducts. It can also happen if you have an injury to your eyes or nose, e.g. a broken nose^2^.
Babies are often born with blocked tear ducts. In fact, it is estimated that one in five babies are born with a tear duct that is not yet open in one or both eyes^1^. This does not usually lead to infection, so is not necessarily a problem. In most cases, the blocked duct will have corrected itself by the time the baby is one or two years old^1^.
The symptoms of an infected tear duct usually include^2^:
If you think you or your baby have an infected tear duct, you should see your GP. Most cases respond quickly to treatment with antibiotics, but if this does not work, minor surgery may be recommended.
If your baby has a blocked tear duct that is not infected, you can help to avoid infection by keeping the skin around their eyes clean and dry with cotton wool and clean water^1^. If the skin gets sore, you can protect it by applying petroleum jelly to the sore area after you have cleaned and dried it^1^. Tear duct massage may also help to clear the blockage. You can do this by applying pressure to the inner corner of the eyelids several times a day^1^.
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