Punctal Plugs for Dry Eye By Walter Choate on July 11, 2018

Digital illustration of punctal plug placementDo you have red, itchy, watery, irritated eyes? If so, you could be suffering from dry eye syndrome, a common condition in which your eyes lack the ability to produce quality tears. There are several treatment options for chronic dry eyes. The option best suited for you will depend on the specific cause of your condition.

Here, our team at Choate Eye Associates in Nashville, TN discusses how punctal plugs for dry eye can help alleviate your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

How Do Punctal Plugs Work?

Punctal, or lacrimal, plugs are tiny devices designed to fit into the tear ducts to block the flow of tears. This helps keep natural lubrication and medications on the surface of the eye for a longer period of time. As a result, your eyes stay moist and comfortable.

Types of Punctal Plugs

There are three different types of punctal plugs commonly used today. These include:

  • Collagen plugs: These are commonly used to determine if punctal plugs will be successful, as they dissolve on their own over time. If dry eye symptoms are alleviated, then collagen plugs may be replaced with a longer-lasting alternative.
  • Silicone plugs: These plugs are barely visible just outside the tear duct. As a result, they are easier to remove if necessary. Silicone punctal plugs are typically successful for long-term dry eye treatment.
  • Intracanalicular plugs: While silicone plugs sit at the surface of the duct, intracanalicular plugs are placed deep within the tear duct. While this prevents them from falling out, surgery may be necessary if they ever need to be removed.

How Are Punctal Plugs Placed?

Placing a punctal plug is a fairly straightforward procedure that can be completed in a single office visit. To begin, the treatment area will be numbed. Next, your doctor will insert the punctal plug into the tear duct.

In some cases, a lacrimal dilator may be used to temporarily expand the duct. Before placement, your doctor will determine which size and shape will be most beneficial for you.

Are There Side Effects?

Overall, using punctal plugs is safe and effective. There are a few minor complications that could occur, including:

  • Excessive tearing: Also known as epiphora, watery eyes may occur if the punctal plug overperforms. If you experience this issue, your doctor can replace the existing plug with a smaller size or more appropriate shape.
  • Displacement: Sometimes, rubbing your eyes can result in accidental dislodgement. This is a common issue, particularly with silicone plugs.
  • Infections: Rarely, eye infections may occur as the result of punctal plugs. Should this occur, the condition may be treatable with topical or oral antibiotics. In other cases, the plugs may need to be removed.
  • Swelling or pain: A rare occurrence, the punctal plug can occasionally travel deeper into the drainage channels. As a result, the ducts may become blocked, causing pain, inflammation, or discomfort.

The most significant benefit of punctal plugs is that they can be removed if necessary. Therefore, any side effects can be addressed quickly.

Learn More about Punctal Plugs for Dry Eyes

If you are growing weary of irritated, chronically dry eyes, then punctal plugs could be a solution for you. To schedule an appointment at our practice, contact us online or give us a call at (615) 851-7575.

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Dr. Choate

Choate Eye Associates

Choate Eye Associates has been delivering high-quality, compassionate eye care to the Nashville community since 1979. We are affiliated with various leading organizations in the field, including: 

  • American Academy of Optometry
  • American Optometric Association 
  • National Board of Examiners in Optometry 

To schedule a consultation at our practice, call us at (615) 851-7575 or request an appointment online

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"I am very pleased with the attention I received at Choate Eye Associates. Dr. Choate is very thorough and does a wonderful job of explaining what he is doing and what he is looking for in the exam." Dianal - Comprehensive Eye Care Patient

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