Many patients are looking for freedom from eye drops and have grown tired of dealing with dry, irritated eyes. Dry eye may be result of natural ageing, low tear production, improper tear composition, post-surgical symptoms, certain medications, or even diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, among other causes. Punctal plugs are a minimally invasive alternative to symptom management. These plugs close the tiny opening (punctum) that you have in the inner corner of your upper and lower eyelids. The closure conserves both your own tears and artificial tears you may have added.
Tears are created and lost as a natural part of body’s eye cleansing and lubrication. Most of the tears are lost to evaporation, while the remaining tears drain from the eyes through the minute openings on the upper and lower eyelids known as the lachrymal punctum. They then flow down through the nose through the naso lachrymal ducts. Preventing this excess tear loss and maintaining a higher level of moisture in the eye is often maintained through temporary remedies such as artificial tears. But a permanent solution can be achieved with the insertion of punctum (Punctal) plugs by a qualified eye specialist. The punctum ducts can be blocked with these plugs to help reduce tear drainage and thus retain moisture in the eye.
Types of Punctal plugs
There are two types of punctal plugs:
- Punctal plugs, which are placed at the tops of the puncta. The tops of these plugs are often visible to the patient looking carefully in a mirror. The advantage of punctal plugs is easy removal, while disadvantage is that they may more easily lost.
- Intracanalicular plugs, which are inserted into the canalicula. Most plugs of this type cannot be seen after insertion. They cannot be removed in the way punctal plugs can, though they may be flushed out with irrigation.
Risks involved with punctal plugs
The risks associated with punctal plugs are low and those related to each type of plug vary depending on the material used, shape, and ultimate goal of treatment. The most common problem associated with punctal plugs is the spontaneous extrusion of the plug from the body, or ejection of the plug due to eye rubbing. Almost half of these punctal plugs are impulsively extruded from the body or rubbed out within 6 months of insertion, but new innovations are rapidly emerging to help prevent this occurrence. Other side effects are uncommon, but can include transient discomfort after insertion, infection, or migration further into the drainage canal.
The use of punctal plugs is a simple, effective, and reversible treatment for chronic dry eyes. A range of punctal plugs are now available as the treatment has grown in popularity and new innovations have brought about a variety of plugs to choose from, increasing the long-term success of the treatment. This is undoubtedly a cost-effective solution for many patients seeking relief. The insertion of punctal plugs addresses both short-term and long-term causes of dry eye symptoms, and enables an eye specialist to devise a tailored treatment for each patient. The safety of punctal plugs makes it a viable treatment option for patients.