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Burwood NSW 2134


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Watery eye in babies

This is a common condition where the tear drainage system fails to completely form before birth. Tears normally drain from the eye to the nose, hence we get a runny nose when we cry. In nasolacrimal duct obstruction this duct fails to open at the nasal end. Tears and mucus accumulate in the eye resulting in a watery sticky eye that needs to be constantly cleaned.

This condition can affect one or both eyes.  It is NON-infectious so antibiotics do NOT help. Regular cleaning of the area is recommended.  Sometimes the debris and mucus can get infected causing red eyes or red eye lids.  These complications called conjunctivitis and dacrocystitis, respectively require antibiotics.

Studies have shown that the drainage system often completes its development and opens spontaneously in the first 12 months of life. Sometimes it may take more than a year. Therefore, it is appropriate to wait the first 12 months prior to surgical intervention.


The most common surgical treatment is to perform a nasolacrimal duct probing, which involves passing a small metal probe down the drainage system into the nose while the child is under a general anaesthetic. Another appropriate procedure is to pass small tubes through the drainage system leaving them in place for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks,  the tubes are then removed.  In both procedures the child wakes up pain free after the anaesthesia.