Tear duct probing and irrigation is a procedure used in the treatment of nasolacrimal duct obstruction.
Tears drain from the eyes through the upper and lower punctum, or small openings in the eyelids that are located in the corner of the eye near the nose. The tears then flow into the lacrimal sac and then through the tear duct which empties into the nose.
A blocked tear duct occurs when a thin membrane covers the end of the tear duct or when a blockage occurs in the tear duct. Nasolacrimal duct obstruction occurs frequently. About a quarter of all infants are born with this condition.
Many times, the blockage will open spontaneously as the infant grows. However, sometimes the blockage does not resolve itself. If it has not resolved by 12 months of age, it is unlikely that it will resolve itself.
Blocked tear ducts can cause recurrent eye infections as well as tearing. Many times, the blockage will open spontaneously as the infant grows. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe massage of the lacrimal sac to help open the tear duct. About 80% of blocked tear ducts resolve by 9 months of age. Despite time and massage, sometimes the blockage does not resolve itself.
If the blockage has not resolved by 9 months of age, the child should see a pediatric ophthalmologist for evaluation. After a complete eye exam, the doctor will decide if the child needs a tear duct probing and irrigation. A tear duct probing and irrigation is done performed in the operating room under general anesthesia.