Sticky eyes in children
Lots of children are born with watery or sticky eyes, and this is a concern to parents. Some babies develop the watering sticky eyes between one and three weeks after birth, and it can take several months to resolve.
Watery, sticky eyes in children are most commonly due to a healthy but delayed opening of the tear duct at its lower end, and it usually clears up on its own with time, once the duct fully opens. The problem will usually go away as soon as the baby’s tear duct finishes developing and this will typically happen in a few weeks, but in some babies, it can take several months, even up to a year. 90% of all tear ducts are open by one year. Therefore, often it is not necessary to do anything about the watering.
The problem will usually go away as soon as the baby’s tear duct finishes developing and this will typically happen in a few weeks, but in some babies, it can take several months, even up to a year. 90% of all tear ducts are open by one year. Therefore, often it is not necessary to do anything about the watering.
However, if there is stickiness with a gluey material discharging, then this can be distressing both to the baby and parents and can affect the baby when they go to nursery. Other people may think that your baby has got an infection. It is important to tell them that it is not an infection, but it is just that their tear duct is slower to develop.
The condition is called congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction.
If there are greenish discharge and stickiness, this may mean that there is a temporary infection and the best way to treat it is by pressing on the tear sac at the corner of the eye where the little dip between the eye and the edge of the small nasal bridge. It is in this corner where we find the tear sac.
The tear sac is found just below a horizontal line through the corners of the eye.
If the tear sac is enlarged, you should be able to feel it with your little finger, and then you can press on it and empty it of any mucus or discharge. Very often there is mucus caught there because, as well as the tears going down the tear duct; there are also mucous producing cells within the tear duct which help the smooth flow of tears. If there is a block at the lower end of the tear duct, then neither the mucus nor the tears can get out easily, other than by being washed back over the eye when you press over the sac.
By pressing over a sac when there is sticky eyes in a baby or infant is what helps to open the tear duct at the lower end by increasing the hydrostatic pressure within the tear duct system. Not only can you help to get rid of the mucus, that can cause a temporary infection, but you are also contributing to speeding up the opening of the tear duct.
Treatment of sticky eyes in children
After examining your baby, we will advise on the best treatment option.
To manage the watery, sticky eye on a daily basis, you will have to clean your baby’s sticky eye with cotton wool and sterilised water i.e. water that has been boiled then allowed to cool. First of all, you have to clean your hands, and then you get the clean cotton wool and the cooled boiled water and soak the cotton wool in the cooled boiled water to gently clean your baby’s eye from the corner of the eye near the nose towards the outside of the eye. Repeat until clean. In some children, a procedure called a syringing and probing may be needed if symptoms are ongoing and not improving after a year. This is a short procedure taking a few minutes, where a probe is passed into the nose through the tear-duct under general anaesthetic, to relieve the blockage at the lower end of the duct and create more normal drainage of tears.
This condition in babies of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction (CNLDO) is treated at Clinica London by Ms Naz Raoof. Miss Jane Olver specialises in repeat endoscopic endonasal monitored syringing and probing and more complicated lacrimal tearing issues. If necessary, we will do a syringe and probe under a short general anaesthetic if the watery, sticky eye does not settle.