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Can Punctal Plugs Cure My Dry Eye Symptoms?

By Dr. Steven Chander on February 21, 2020

Image shows tear duct plug that has been placed in a tear duct of an adult maleThe condition known as dry eyes can result in irritating symptoms such as dry, red, and itchy eyes. If you suffer from this common eye condition, Dr. Steven Chander of Eye Care Associates in Chicago, IL, can place special plugs in your tear ducts that slow the drainage of tears. This treatment may be needed if eye drops and medications are ineffective. Here, we discuss dry eye treatment and tear duct plugs, including how the plugs work and what you can expect from treatment.

How Tear Duct Plugs Work

Tear duct plugs (also known as punctal plugs, lacrimal plugs, or occluders) are tiny, biocompatible devices that can be inserted into tear ducts to block drainage. The small devices are roughly the size of a grain of rice. Tear duct plugs can be made of silicone, collagen, or another material.

Each eyelid has one punctum that is located near the nose. The punctum is the opening for the tear duct system that drains tears into the throat. Glands on and around your eyes continually release tears. It is through the act of blinking that tears are cycled through the tear duct.

When tear production and drainage become out of balance, patients can develop dry eye symptoms. By plugging the punctums and slowing tear drainage, balance can be restored and patients can enjoy relief from dry eye symptoms. Tear duct plugs are a proven treatment to increase the eye’s tear film and improve surface moisture.

Punctal plugs are either semi-permanent or dissolvable. Dissolvable tear duct plugs can last between a few days to several months. Dissolvable plugs may also be used to test whether the treatment will be effective in addressing your symptoms.

Treatment Overview

The process of placing tear duct plugs is straightforward. The size of the punctal plug will be customized to meet your needs. To be effective, Dr. Chander will likely use the largest size that can safely be placed in the tear duct opening. Dr. Chander may use a special instrument to measure the size of the tear duct opening.

Local anesthetic, along with sedation, may be used for this procedure. Dr. Chander will use a special device to place a tear duct plug in the opening of the duct or deeper where it cannot be seen. Other than a slight sensation of pressure when the plugs are inserted, you will not feel the plugs once they are securely placed. The tissue around the devices will conform to the plugs, and you will not notice the presence of the plugs as you resume daily activities.

Side effects following this treatment are rare. Some patients may experience excessive tear accumulation. Watery eyes should be reported to our office. Dr. Chander will either replace the tear duct plugs or find a suitable alternative treatment.

Schedule Your Dry Eye Consultation Today

If medicated eye drops are ineffective at treating your dry eye symptoms, tear duct plugs can offer relief. Patients can rely on this safe and effective treatment for as long as needed. To schedule your dry eye treatment consultation, please contact our office online or call (773) 735-6090. Dr. Chander is Board-certified with the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.

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