One way to alleviate dry eye is to help the eyes retain the small amount of lubricating tears they do produce. This is accomplished by closing off the small funnel-like drain hole found in the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids. The drain hole, called the punctum, can be closed with tiny plugs called punctal plugs. These plugs are either made of collagen, which are temporary and dissolve after a period of time, or of silicone, which are more permanent.
The plugs can be placed in the two tear ducts, top and bottom, in both eyes or in only the lower ducts. The punctum can also be permanently closed with a heat or laser procedure.
Again, punctal plugs can be temporary or permanent. If your dry eye symptoms lessen when the temporary plugs are inserted, your doctor may consider permanent punctal occlusion.
Punctal occlusion is for those:
- who have been diagnosed with dry eye
- whose doctor has determined that punctal occlusion is the appropriate treatment for their condition
What to expect on procedure day:
Your treatment will be performed in an examination room. It does not require a surgery center. Drops will be used to numb your eye; no injections or needles are used.
Your doctor will place the plug into the corner of your eyelid using a forceps-like applicator. He or she will then gently push the plug into your natural punctal opening and you’ll be asked to blink. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes. Many patients report immediate relief from dry eye symptoms and resume normal activities immediately. For others it will take several days or weeks to see the results.
Serious complications with punctal occlusion are extremely rare, but like any medical procedure, it does have some risks. If you experience side effects, your doctor can usually remove the plugs.