Punctal Plugs

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Artificial Tears vs Punctal Plugs

Artificial tears are lubricant eye drops that help to moisten the eyes and alleviate irritation that has occurred by supplementing natural tears. Many people who use contact lenses rely more on the artificial tears to maintain their vision and avoid suffering from dry eyes. There are a variety of different brands of artificial tears that are available over-the-counter.

Artificial tears that contain preservatives should be used four to six times a day for safe use. Unfortunately, many people can begin to overuse the tears and rely on them too frequently. Eye drops that do not contain preservatives can be safely used up to 10 times a day. If the drops are used on an hourly basis, it can cause the natural tears to be washed out and inhibit their production due to a reliance on the eye drops.

Ongoing Dryness

Many people may find that artificial tears do not alleviate their eye’s dryness even with frequent use of the product. In some cases, an ophthalmologist can insert punctal plugs into a patient’s tear duct. This helps to preserve a layer of moisture on the eye and prevent dryness from developing.

What are Punctal Plugs?

Punctal plugs are tiny silicone plugs that close the tiny opening of the inner corner of the eyes. The plugs are inserted directly into the upper and lower tear ducts. The product works as a closure that helps to conserve both your natural and artificial tears, making it easier to avoid relying on eye drops throughout the day and alleviating dryness or irritation.

How do Plugs Stave Off Dry Eye

The plugs are effective by blocking the tear drainage channel, which is located in the inner corner of the eye and allows the moisture to remain in the eye for a longer period of time. This benefits those who suffer from serious dry eye conditions and are known to have a high success rate compared to other treatments that are available. This low-cost option is a viable method for an effective way of managing the dry-eye disease with higher patient expectations. They also do not require ongoing compliance with eye drops to maintain the moisture.
Inner Corner of the Eye

Punctal plugs must be sized correctly for each patient before they’re inserted for a proper fit that is comfortable and does not cause further irritation. Each of the plugs are smaller than a grain of rice. The dome of the plugs must also be positioned correctly when they’re inserted with the dome of the plug flush against the inner corner of the eye without any space present.

Although the plugs are not painful to have inserted, patients may feel a bit of resistance before the plugs naturally pop into place. The product should be comfortable for the patient once it’s inserted. In some cases, the doctor may use a local anesthetic to prevent discomfort from occurring.

Once the punctal plugs are inserted, patients should avoid rubbing their eyes, which can cause the silicone plugs to pop out. This can increase the dry eye symptoms and make the condition worse. Instead, the area should be blotted or dabbed to avoid dislodging the product. In some cases, artificial tears may still need to be used on occasion if discomfort is present.

A Plug is size of rice

Different Sizes for Different Eyes

There are a variety of shapes of the plugs, which includes umbrella, tapered, hollow, reservoir, and slanted plugs. Umbrella plugs are visible in the tear duct and can be easy to remove. Tapered plugs are inserted horizontally with extra force to ensure that the plugs are secure. Hollow plugs are known to model the shape of the eye’s tear duct for a comfortable fit and reservoir plugs reduces foreign body sensation by capturing and holding the tears. Slanted tears are another design that helps to maintain extra comfort.

Statistics on Punctal Plugs

91 percent of patients who have punctal plugs inserted notice more moisture in their eyes and 77 percent experience fewer symptoms. The plugs are also known to improve vision among 43 percent of patients due to the added moisture that is available. There are two different types of punctal plugs that can be inserted, which are each used for different lengths of time. Semi-permenant plugs are often constructed out of silicone and can last for several months. Temporary plugs are dissolvable and are made out of collagen, which are absorbed by the body over time. These are often used to determine if the plugs will work well for the patient before the semi-permanent plugs are inserted for long-term use.

Bear in mind that dryness does not prevent you from being a LASIK candidate with these viable treatment options like plugs or artificial tears.  To find out whether you are a candidate for LASIK, try our Free self-candidacy quiz now.