Punctal plugs are another type of device designed to help provide relief from dry eye symptoms. They are small devices which are placed in the tear ducts (puncta) of the eyes, and help prevent fluid from draining from the eyes. This helps keep the surface of the eyes more moist, and to relieve the itching, burning sensations that come with dry eye.
At Amplify EyeCare, we frequently encounter patients suffering from ocular discomfort due to dry eyes or excessive tearing. Over the years, we as eye care professionals have honed a range of strategies to tackle these issues. One such potent, non-invasive solution that has emerged is the use of Punctal Plugs.
Punctal plugs are tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, that are inserted into the tear ducts (also known as puncta) of the eyes. They play a pivotal role in assisting the draining of fluid from the eyes, thereby maintaining increased moisture levels. This alleviates the painful itching or burning sensation often associated with dry eye.
These plugs are generally inserted into the puncta in either the upper or lower eyelids or both if necessary. There are also different types of plugs designed to be placed in another part of the tear duct, known as the canaliculus. Their robustness and adaptability make punctal plugs an invaluable tool in our optometry toolkit.
Tear ducts, also known as canaliculus, are vital for maintaining a healthy tear film on your eyes' surface, thus ensuring consistent surface moisture. They are responsible for the drainage of tears from your eyes to your nose. However, if the tear duct openings drain tears too quickly or excessively, dry eyes may result. On the flip side, blockages can cause watery eyes or epiphora, a condition known as excessive tearing.
Punctal plugs act as a dam in the tear drainage system, thus increasing the eye's tear film and surface moisture to relieve dry eye. Alternatively, they can help control excessive tearing by regulating the flow of tears.
There are generally two types of punctal plugs:
Our eye doctor applies a local anesthetic to numb the area and places the plug into the tear duct opening. You won't feel more than a slight discomfort during the procedure. In fact, many patients report immediate relief from dry eye or excessive tearing symptoms.
However, it's essential to follow up with your eye care professional. Punctal plugs may occasionally cause dacryocystitis, a painful swelling due to tear duct blockages.
While punctal plugs have been proven to be a reliable solution for both dry eyes and excessive tearing, like all treatments and procedures, they come with a certain level of risk and potential side effects. Here, I've listed these in order of commonality and severity for your understanding.
Should you experience any of these side effects after receiving your punctal plugs, we encourage you to immediately contact your eye care professional.
Punctal plugs are not for everyone. Certain conditions can make it inadvisable to get them; your doctor will let you know if this is a case during your consultation.
Patients who have an active infection, issues with the drainage of the lacrimal system, or sensitivity to the material the plugs are made of, should not get punctal plugs. Additionally, if a patient has allergic conjunctivitis, punctal plugs should be avoided as they could result in allergens remaining on the ocular surface. Patients with severe blepharitis should also avoid punctal plugs.
If certain serious side effects occur, your doctor may opt to remove your punctal plugs.
Most punctal plugs can be removed without surgery, by simply using forceps to pull them from the tear ducts or flushing them out with a saline solution.
Punctal plugs which were inserted deeper (inside the canaliculus) have to be surgically removed.
Punctal plugs are devices that can be inserted into the tear ducts to help relieve dry eye symptoms. If you would like to learn more about punctal plugs or schedule a dry eye exam, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.