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The Kid’s Doctor: Why babies get ‘goop’ in their eyes

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Eye “goop” from clogged tear ducts appears worse usually after the baby has been sleeping.

By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
kidsdr.com

If you have recently had a baby you may already know about “clogged tear ducts.” This is called nasolacrimal duct obstruction and is fairly common in newborn infants in the first weeks to months of life.

A baby’ s tear duct, the tiny little hole in the inner corner of the eye, is very small and narrow and may often get obstructed. If that is the case, the tears that an infant makes get backed up and may form a thickened “goopy” discharge in the eye.

At times, when this occurs, the baby’s eye will seem to be “glued” shut as the goop gets in the eyelashes and almost seems to cement those little eyes closed. Occasionally, the eye will look a little puffy due to the debris in the eye. The best thing to do for this problem is to use a warm compress or cotton ball dampened with warm water to wipe the eyelashes and remove the discharge from the eye.

Once the “goop” is removed and your baby opens their eye, look at the whites (conjunctiva) of the eye. The conjunctiva should not appear to be red or inflamed. The goop will re-accumulate over time, but the eye itself should continue to look clear.

Babies with clogged tear ducts do not appear to be ill and continue to eat well. The only problem should be the goopy eye.

In order to help open the clogged duct you can try to massage the inner lower corner of the baby’s eye (beneath the tear duct itself), several times a day. Gently apply pressure to the area and do this several times a day.

The eye “goop” always seems to be worse after the baby has been sleeping. It is also not uncommon for one eye to clear up only to have the other eye develop “goop.” Most of these obstructions resolve on their own by 4 to 6 months of age. If the tear duct continues to be obstructed, talk to your pediatrician about a possible referral to the pediatric ophthalmologist.


(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)

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