Approximately 5% of all infants are born with blockages of the nasolacrimal ducts in one or both eyes. These ducts are responsible for draining tears out of the eyes. When they become blocked, the eye tears constantly with discharge. Most of these obstructions clear spontaneously in the first six months of life. However, some of these obstructions persist, requiring surgical probing and dilation of the ducts to open them. To ensure the best results with the least chance of complications, these procedures are usually performed before the age of one year.
Babies can also be born with drooping of one or both eyelids. This condition is known as congenital ptosis. This problem is corrected with surgery on the eyelid(s) to raise it up to an appropriate level. Timing of surgery depends on the severity of ptosis, with more severe cases requiring earlier intervention.
Children often develop infected cysts in the eyelids, known as chalazions. This problem occurs because of blockage of tear glands in the eyelids that produce the oily component of tears (Meibomian glands). The blocked glands can become infected and inflamed, forming large cysts in the eyelids. Early treatment with hot compresses and antibiotics is often helpful in clearing the problem. Surgery to excise these cysts is sometimes needed if conservative treatment fails.
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