Punctal Plugs for Dry Eye Disease
Punctal plugs are minute biocompatible plugs that are inserted to one’s tear glands so as to create a blockage in the drainage. By creating this blockage, the eye’s tear film increases, providing enough surface moisture to eliminate dry eye condition.
Dry eye is a condition that affects millions of people. Punctal plugs have proven to be a creative solution to this problem. This solution even works for people with serious dry eye disease. According to clinical tests, punctal plugs have proven to be about 75% successful.
Punctal plugs are no larger than a grain of rice and generally come in two different forms:
• Dissolvable: These plugs are made of materials such as collagen. This material is eventually absorbed into the body.
• Semi-permanent: These plugs are made from long-lasting materials, including silicone.
Temporary/dissolvable plugs can be used over a short period, usually a few days or a few months. These are a temporary solution and are used as a temporary therapy, such as when preventing dry eye condition after LASIK. If temporary plugs fail to provide the intended results, semi-permanent punctal plugs are then considered.
Types of Punctal Plugs
Punctal plugs come in different shapes and designs. The most common ones include:
1. Tapered: This design helps the punctal plug remain in place by exerting extra horizontal force.
2. Reservoir: This type of punctal plugs collects and holds tears. This reduces the foreign body sensation and provides extra comfort to the user.
3. Umbrella: These can be easily spotted and removed as they do not disappear into the tear duct.
4. Hollow: A hollowed interior works to allow the plug to adhere to the shape of the tear duct.
Punctal vs. Intracanalicular Plugs
Punctal plugs are placed on top of puncta. When looking in the mirror, you can clearly see the tops of these plugs. The main advantage of with punctal plugs is the ease of removal. The main disadvantage is that they are quite easy to lose.
Intracanalicular plugs are inserted into the canalicular. Once inserted, these plugs are quite hard to see. These plugs are not as easily removed as punctal plugs. However, irrigation can be used to flush them out.
When is The Right Time To Remove Punctal Plugs?
Semi-permanent punctal plugs are designed to last indefinitely. However, they are easily removed. If you experience any discomfort or any other complication such as an eye infection, notify your optometrist immediately. They will decide if it is time to remove the plugs.
Before Getting Punctal Plugs
Before getting punctal plugs, ensure you visit your eye doctor. Do not get punctal plugs as a result of symptoms of dry eye disease. Discuss your entire medical history with your optometrist to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Also, before settling on punctal plugs, you can try out other measures that are known to reduce dry eye symptoms. Avoid spending very long hours staring at digital screens. Also, avoid spending a large amount of time in windy places. Ensure you get enough sleep as this greatly aids the development of normal tear film.