Punctal Plugs for the Treatment of Dry Eye
Dry eye syndrome affects millions of adults in the U.S. In addition to being uncomfortable and inconvenient, this condition can lead to vision impairment if left untreated. In some cases, patients suffering from dry eyes can find relief by having punctal plugs placed. This safe, effective treatment is available at Choate Eye Associates in Goodlettsville, TN. Dr. Walter Choate is board-certified in the treatment of eye diseases and is dedicated to providing the highest level of care for our patients.
What Are Punctal Plugs?
Punctal plugs are inserted directly into the tear ducts. These small, biocompatible devices (roughly the size of a grain of rice) block the outward drainage of tears so that the tear film on the surface of the eye increases. This rise in surface moisture helps alleviate several symptoms of dry eye. Generally, punctal plugs are considered when eye drops, both over-the-counter and medicated, have failed to adequately address the condition. There are two kinds of punctal plugs:
- Dissolvable: These plugs are crafted from natural collagen or other materials that are absorbed by the body over time.
- Semi-permanent: Some punctal plugs are made from silicone or other longer-lasting materials.
Punctal Plug Placement
Punctal plug placement is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in just a few moments at our office. To begin, Dr. Choate will first measure the tear duct opening to determine which size plug will be most helpful. In most cases, anesthesia is not required. However, numbing eye drops or local anesthesia can be used when necessary.
Punctal plugs are made from safe, biocompatible materials and the simple procedure requires no downtime.
All four eyelids have a tear duct opening (puncta) near the bridge of the nose. Depending on your specific situation, punctal plugs may be placed in the upper ducts, the lower ducts, or both. To insert the devices, Dr. Choate may use a specialized instrument to dilate the puncta. In many cases, punctal plugs are inserted just inside the duct. These can be removed easily if necessary. In other instances, the punctal plugs may be placed deeper into the duct. These plugs conform once placed for a comfortable fit.
Aftercare and Follow-Up
During the procedure, you may notice slight discomfort as the punctal plug is placed. However, once the device is positioned, you should not feel it or be aware of it at all.
One of the primary advantages of punctal plug placement is that it requires no downtime. In fact, following your procedure, you should be able to resume all normal activities. In the weeks and months after your punctal plug placement, Dr. Choate will see you for follow-up visits to monitor your progress.
Are There Side Effects?
Anytime you undergo a medical procedure, there is a small risk for complications. Side effects from punctal plugs are rare. However, contact our practice immediately if you notice:
- Infection: This may be indicated by inflammation, swelling, or discharge. In most cases, an infection can be addressed with antibiotics.
- Shifting: Your punctal plugs may move or become dislodged accidentally if you rub your eyes.
- Excessive tearing: In some cases, punctal plugs may be too successful, leading to excessive watering of the eyes. If this happens, we may need to place a more suitable size or type.
Learn More about Punctal Plugs
Dry eye syndrome can be a nuisance but punctal plugs are a successful and minimally invasive treatment option for the right patients. To find out if you are a candidate, contact us online or call our office at (615) 851-7575.