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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Blocked Tear Ducts: Probing Procedures
Probing is a procedure that is sometimes used to clear or
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
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:
Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of the different types of anesthesia.
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
Olitsky SE, et al. (2011). Disorders of the lacrimal system. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 2165–2166. Philadelphia: Saunders.
October 9, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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