Blocked Tear Ducts: Probing Procedures
Probing is a procedure that is sometimes used to clear or open a blocked tear duct. The doctor inserts a surgical probe into the opening (punctum) of the tear duct to clear the blockage. Afterward, he or she may insert into the duct a tiny tube with water running through it. The water contains a fluorescein dye. If the doctor sees that dye has moved into the nasal cavity, he or she will know that probing worked. Often after probing, antibiotic eyedrops are used 4 times a day for 1 week.
Probing is rarely used as treatment for adults with a blocked tear duct. Probing is most often used when a baby:
Probing can be done using local or general anesthesia depending on:
Each type of probing has its advantages and disadvantages. The options should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor.
Probing successfully opens the duct for about 80 out of 100 babies who have blocked ducts.1 Probing may be done again if it doesn't work the first time. Most children under the age of 4 who have a simple blockage of a tear duct can be helped by a single probing.
There is a rare risk of scarring.
The symptoms of a blocked tear duct may return for a short time if your child gets an upper respiratory infection, such as a sinus infection or a cold. If symptoms persist, a dye solution may be used in the eye to check the drainage system. Massage and antibiotics may be used for 4 to 6 more weeks. If excessive tearing continues, the probing may be repeated, but usually not for at least 3 months after the first procedure. Other treatments may also be tried, especially if more than one probing is done without results.
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