Common eye problems

Blocked tear duct (sticky eye):

Sticky eye is more likely if your baby’s tear duct is narrower than normal or not fully developed. Tears are unable to drain away through the tear duct into the nose, and built up in the eye. This may cause your baby’s eye to appear constantly wet (hence the term ‘sticky eye’).

  • A blocked tear duct will naturally resolve by 12 months old in 90% of babies.
  • Occasionally the tear duct can become infected. You will notice a white or yellow discharge for the eye and perhaps swelling or redness around the tear duct. In this case, antibiotics may be advisable.
  • You can clean away excess tears and any sticky discharge with a damp cloth.
  • Massage of the tear duct does seem to help the tears to drain away, so ask your baby health nurse how to do this.
  • If the blocked tear duct hasn’t resolved itself by 12 months, your baby may be required to undergo a simple operation to open it using a fine probe.


  • Conjunctivitis is caused by an infection of the lining of the eyelids and of the outer protective layer of the eye (the conjunctiva). It can be caused by a bacteria or virus or by allergies.
  • Conjunctivitis will make your baby’s eyes appear red, and they will feel gritty and usually produce pus.
  • If the cause of the infection is bacteria, it’s very likely that the conjunctivitis will appear in both eyes – though, perhaps not at the same time.
  • A virus-based conjunctivitis may only appear in one eye and will cause profuse watering and itchiness of the affected eye.
  • Allergy-based conjunctivitis usually has other accompanying allergy symptoms – hay fever, itchy eyes, twitchy nose.

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