One way to alleviate dry eye is to help the eyes to make better and longer use of 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. These drain holes, called punctums can be closed with tiny plugs called punctal plugs. 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.
Punctal plugs can be temporary or permanent. Temporary plugs dissolve a few days after insertion. If your dry eye symptoms disappear when the temporary plugs are inserted, your doctor may consider permanent punctal occlusion.
What to expect on procedure day:
Your treatment will be performed in an examination room. It does not require a surgery center. Once you have been checked in and settled comfortably, drops will be used to numb your eye; no injections or needles are used.
The entire procedure takes only a few minutes. Many patients report immediate relief from dry eye symptoms and resume normal activities immediately.
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 remove the plugs. Going to a specialist experienced in punctal occlusion can significantly minimize risks.
If you and your doctor decide that punctal occlusion is an option for you, you will be given additional information about the procedure that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to proceed.