What are Punctal Plugs?
There are tear ducts located in the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids called puncta. Punctal plugs are tiny plugs that can be inserted into one or both of the tear ducts in each eye. Plugging a tear duct often helps the eye retain its natural tear film, thus reducing the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye.
There are different types of plugs:
Temporary plugs (usually made of collagen): dissolve over a period of time, from a few days to months.
Permanent plugs (usually made of silicone): last indefinitely.
Fully intracanalicular vs parasol plugs:
- Fully intracanalicular plugs are inserted deeper into the tear ducts and are not noticeable.
- Parasol plugs have a section of the plug which is visible on the eyelid.
Most patients adjust to punctal plugs quickly and do not feel or notice the plugs during normal activities or sleep.
How are punctal plugs inserted?
Punctal plugs are inserted during a simple, painless office procedure. Your doctor may use a local anesthetic to numb the tear duct, but this is not always necessary. A small tool called a lacrimal dilator may be used to dilate the tear drain and make insertion easier. The doctor will then insert the plug into the existing tear drain in the eyelid with small forceps.
Patients may experience slight discomfort at first. This should not interfere with your ability to drive home and resume normal activities immediately.
Are there any complications or risks?
Punctal plugs are generally very safe, but there are a few possible complications to be aware of:
- Semi-permanent plugs may fall out
- Scratchy or irritated feeling, which often goes away after your eye/eyelid adjusts
- Excessive tearing or watery eyes
- Allergic reactions
- Inflammation or irritation of the eyelids and tear ducts
- Watery eyes
You should contact your eye doctor if any of complications occur. Punctal plugs CAN be removed if necessary.
Can punctal plugs treat my dry eye?
An Ophthalmologist can assess your eyes and determine if you are a good candidate for punctal plugs.
It is very important for your eye doctor to assess the reasons for your dry eye, which can be caused by many factors. Punctal plugs don’t work for everyone. For example, they probably would not work if the dry eye problem was a side effect of a medication. Punctal plugs are most effective for people whose eyes either don’t produce enough tears, or produce low quality tears. Sometimes doctors try a temporary dissolvable collagen plug first, in order to assess whether permanent punctal plugs will work for you.
Eye Physicians of Long Beach Dry Eye Center of Excellence
Curious if you are a candidate for punctal plugs? Please call or email to arrange a consultation at the Eye Physicians of Long Beach Dry Eye Center of Excellence!!