Most of the time, yes! The eye is kept moist and healthy through tears made by the lacrimal gland under the top eyelid. When we blink, tears move toward our nose and drain into a tube called the nasolacrimal duct.
Many babies are born with undeveloped tear ducts, so the tears don’t drain properly and can pool, spill onto the cheeks, or build up sticky eye mucus in the corner of the eye or eyelashes. The skin may be chapped in the area as well. A fully blocked tear duct is called a nasolacrimal duct obstruction, whereas a partially open or narrow duct is called dacryostenosis.
Signs of this usually appear in the first few weeks of life, and can be worse after a cold or sinus infection, or exposure to wind or cold due to an increased production of tears. The good news is, studies show up to 95% of blocked tear ducts resolve naturally in the first 6-12 months of life!
Diagnosis and Treatment
An examination by your eye doctor will determine if the excessive tearing and crusting is due to a nasolacrimal duct blockage vs other causes. Be on the look out for redness, swelling or a green-ish discharge, which could be signs of an infection.
After washing your hands, applying a warm facecloth and gently massaging the drainage area can help. If an infection develops, topical antibiotic ointments may be prescribed by your eye doctor. In the rare case of an obstruction persisting beyond 1 year of age, surgical probing of the duct by an ophthalmologist may be required.