Punctal plugs are small devices that are inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage of tears.
The purpose is to allow your own tears to stay on the eye surface for a longer time, to increase the amount of tears in the eye in patients suffering from dry eye.
They are often used when other treatments such as artificial tears is just not enough or fail to relieve the symptoms of dry eye on their own.
There are two types of plugs:
Dissolvable plugs are made from collagen. The collagen plug is absorbed by the body and can last from a few days to a few months.
The temporary plugs short use type can be used after laser vision correction to treat dry eye associated with the procedure.
Or it can be used for seasonal sufferers ( for those who work in a trade ) or simply just computer users etc.
Semi-permanent plugs are made from silicone or hydrogel. These last for years. This type is more commonly used for chronic dry eye.
This type of plug can be left in the eye indefinitely. They can also be removed.
Insertion of the Plugs
Each eyelid has one small opening to drain tears, this opening is called the punctum and is located close to the nose on the margin of each lid.
Punctal plugs can be inserted in the lower lid or both the upper and lower lids.
Punctal plugs can be inserted in the office . A small drop of local anaesthetic will be instilled in the eye, and that makes the procedure quick and painless.
Potential complications of Punctal Plugs
Usually, the plugs work well and there are no serious side effects from the insertion of punctual plugs.
Excessive tearing (epiphora) and watery eyes can occur when the punctal plug does its job too well. In this case, you may need to visit your eye doctor for removal of the plug or replacement with a different type to better control the amount of tears on your eye.
Displacement or loss of the plug can occur. This occurs from rubbing the eye or scratching the eyelid.
Other less common side effects are eye infections. Usually the infections are mild and can be treated with antibiotics or by removal of the plug.