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Syringing and probing of the tearduct (children)

Syringing and probing of the tear duct has two purposes. It helps to diagnose where the tear duct is blocked and at the same time it aims to unblock the blockage.


The tear duct is blocked because during development it has not opened fully. The tear duct is usually completely open at birth. In those babies who have a watery eye at birth due to a closed duct, 90% will spontaneously get better by one year of age. For this reason, this procedure should not usually be carried out before this time. In the remaining 10% who do not improve, syringing and probing should be performed in the second year of life.

The procedure is simple. The patient is put to sleep with a general anaesthetic. The surgeon will then examine the eyes and eyelids. A narrow blunt ended metal probe is then passed down the tear duct. The surgeon will be able to tell where the block is. He will continue to pass the probe down the tear duct until the blockage is overcome. He will then syringe the tear system to ensure free flow of fluid into the nose. Some antibiotic ointment will then be put into the eye and the patient is woken up. The procedure only lasts a few minutes.


Red eye

The tears may be pink over the first 24 hours and the eye may be slightly red. This should quickly settle.


There may be a small amount of blood from the nostril. This settles quickly. A large bleed is unusual but you should inform the doctor if this happens. (You may also notice some yellow fluid at the nostril immediately afterwards; this is the dye used to check that the tear duct is open).

The eye may continue to water

It is not uncommon that the tear duct needs to be syringed and probed more than once. It is possible that the watering may be made better to start with, but that the symptoms of watering and stickiness return. Your doctor will discuss this with you at the post-operative clinic visit. If a complete block is found at surgery which is difficult to open, a further operation may be recommended and this will be discussed with you.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please ask your eye doctor.


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