Will my new baby’s eye stop watering?

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Tears drain from the eyes through two tiny holes in the top and bottom lids into a little tear sac under the skin between the eye and the nose and then through a thin tube into the back of the nose. In almost 10% of babies the tear drainage tube (nasolacrimal duct) is not open at birth. These babies tend to develop a watery and sticky eye a few weeks after birth when they start producing a normal volume of tears and the tears have nowhere to go. In the vast majority of cases the duct opens without any intervention some time during the first year of life. The sac should be pressed gently two or three times a day to empty it of stagnant tears and all the stickiness should be cleaned away using saline or boiled (cool) water. No antibiotics are needed unless the eye gets red. If the wateriness persists beyond one year it starts to get less likely to settle spontaneously. For these babies we offer a simple probing procedure under anaesthetic to open up the drainage pathway and let the tears flow away.