Family Health Guide

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Eye Irritations

Crusty, red, itchy -- your little one's eyes can become easily irritated. The most common culprits are pinkeye (conjunctivitis) in kids of all ages and blocked tear ducts in newborns or older infants.

Pinkeye is an inflammation of the thin, transparent covering on the inner side of the eyelids. The three main types of pinkeye are viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis, both of which are highly contagious, and allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergies that irritate the conjunctiva), which is not contagious. Pinkeye is common and usually not serious.

The most common form of a blocked tear duct is a tear drainage duct that is not completely open at birth, causing excess tears to well up, stagnate, and sometimes produce a goopy bacterial discharge around the eyes of a newborn. Blocked tear ducts are very common: about 20 to 25 percent of babies are born with one or both tear ducts blocked. A tear duct in an older child or adult can become blocked after birth, as a result of trauma or local infections, but this is less common.