Let's Talk About ... Teary, Gooey Baby Eyes
If I had a nickel for every time I talked to parents about teary, gooey baby eyes I’d own a yacht and would be sailing it around Europe right about now.
So let’s talk about it, and what you can do to help it go away.
Baby eye tear ducts don’t work well sometimes.
Pull down your bottom eyelid and look in a mirror. See that little dot towards your nose? That’s part of the tear drainage system. Tears wash over our eyes daily then drain down that teeny tube into our nose.
Baby’s tubes just don’t work well sometimes, and get sticky, stuck, and blocked.
Parents often complain that one or both of their baby’s eyes are full of tears or have yellow crusts or drainage.
Tears (which are clear) almost always dry to a yellow color, by the way.
As long as the white part of the eye isn’t red or pink, it’s not pink eye (but if it is red or pink, see your pediatrician. Sometimes drops are needed).
This common problem is called nasolacrimal duct obstruction, and it’s nothing to worry about.
You often just have to wipe the tears/goo away, and with time, it’ll go away.
Sometimes we recommend a nasolacrimal massage. It’s also called the “Crigler massage.”
Take a warm washcloth and wrap it around your finger, like in my super-glamorous picture to the right.
Massage up and down a few times with the washcloth to help the duct open and the tear sac (inside the tissues in that area) loosen up. Do this maybe 1-2 times a day when the eye has been acting up.
The problem will often come and go a few times in a child’s first few months.
Very rarely, if it continues after 6-7 months of life, I’ll send kiddos to an ophthalmologist. There is an in-office procedure they can do that’ll fix the problem. I’d say maybe 1-2 out of 100 kids need this done.
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
"Dr. Diane Arnaout is a pediatrician at the Cook Children's Forest Park practice. If you would like to see her at Forest Park, call 817-336-3800 or click here for an appointment. Dr. Diane has been a Cook Children’s physician since 2011.
She got her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, went to medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, and completed her pediatric residency in the Texas Medical Center at UT Health Science Center in Houston.
She is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. She has two small kids, whom she credits as being her toughest (and best) teachers. She loves being a pediatrician and loves to teach parents all about their childrens’ health daily, both in-person and online.”