About Punctal Plugs for Dry Eyes
Diagnosing and Treating
The first step in any treatment regiment is a full Eye Examination. As dry eye can have a number of causes, it is vital that you get a full examination. There are several common treatments for dry eyes:
- Artificial Tears and Ointments: The use of artificial teardrops is the primary treatment for dry eyes.
- Punctal Plugs: Treatment for dry eyes involves a simple, non-surgical procedure that provides long-term relief using tiny silicone plugs called Punctum plugs. Punctum plugs have a high rate of success and can be inserted easily and painlessly by an eye care professional. The plugs are inserted into your tear drainage ducts where they act as a dam. Your tears have no place to go but onto the surface of your eyes. Punctum plugs are also used for many patients after LASIK surgery since keeping the eyes moist is important during the healing process.
- Restasis: When your eyes’ natural ability to make enough tears is reduced, they may not have enough tears to lubricate and protect them. Chronic dry Eye (CDE) is a medical condition that can result from the eyes’ reduced ability to make tears. Over-the-counter eye drops can help moisten your eyes, but they cannot help increase tear production— so they provide only temporary relief. Restasis Ophthalmic Emulsion helps increase tear production in cases where it may be reduced by inflammation and helps you make more of your own real tears.
- Other Medications: Other medications, including topical steroids, may also be beneficial in some cases.
- Surgery: If needed, the ducts that drain tears into the nose can be permanently closed to allow more tears to remain around the eye. This is done with a local anesthetic on an outpatient basis.
All About Punctal Plugs
Your optometrist will recommend punctal plugs if eye drops fail to relieve the dry eye condition. The plugs block drainage from tear ducts. Once they are inserted, the eye’s surface moisture increases. The tiny plugs are usually no larger than a grain of rice. They are known to help certain forms of dry eye.
There are two types of punctal plugs:
- Semi-permanent: typically made of long-lasting materials such as silicone
- Dissolvable: made from materials that the body eventually absorbs such as collagen. These temporary plugs can last from a few days to several months.
Your optometrist at Windward Eye Care or Alpharetta Eye Clinic will help you decide which is the best option for your condition.
The Punctal Plug Procedure
The use of anesthetic is optional for the procedure. Your optometrist will discuss this with you at the consultation. Before the procedure, your tear duct openings, or puncta, are measured to determine the size of the plug needed to block drainage and stay in place.
How Are Punctal Plugs Inserted in Tear Ducts?
Depending on the type of punctal plug selected, your optometrist first may use a special instrument to measure the size of your tear duct openings or puncta. Each eyelid, upper and lower, has a puncta. This helps determine the proper size of the punctal plug needed to block drainage within the channel and to keep it securely in place. The doctor may elect to use an instrument to dilate the puncta so it’s easier to insert the plugs.
Once the plugs are inserted, you should have little to no discomfort. You can drive yourself home after the procedure.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule a consultation at Windward Eye Care or Alpharetta Eye Clinic and let our experts recommend the best treatment.