Punctal Plugs for Dry Eyes – A Closer Look At Tear Duct Plugs | Eye Love Cares
Throughout much of human history, having chronic dry eyes was a problem which placed a hefty burden on each person who suffered from it. Although there has usually been some sort of moisturizer or natural remedy that people throughout history have been able to access, modern advances in medicine have made it a lot easier for us to handle conditions like this. Especially when it comes to the efficiency and quality of care that you can find from a qualified eye doctor. Here, we will provide a comprehensive summary that gives you all the information that you need to know about punctal plugs and tear duct plugs, one of the great advancements in dry eye treatment.
What Are Tear Duct Plugs?
Also known as punctal plugs, punctum plugs, or even lacrimal plugs, tear duct plugs are one of the latest and greatest advances in ophthalmology. A tear duct plug is a small device that is implanted by an eye doctor into your tear duct to block excess tear drainage. Tear duct plugs are very small and are designed to be implanted into your eyelid without causing any sort of discomfort. When implanted successfully, punctal plugs can provide relief for dry eyes by helping you retain all your naturally-produced tears.
Why Should You Use Tear Duct Plugs?
Not everybody is a great candidate for tear duct plugs. Before you will be able to convince your doctor to implant tear duct plugs into your eyes, you will need to be a great candidate. Typically, those who have dry eye syndrome will be considered as candidates, depending on the severity and cause of their condition. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider getting tear duct plugs.
Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome
If you have been diagnosed with chronic dry eye syndrome, you will probably be an instant top-candidate for getting tear duct plugs. Since tear duct plugs are designed with your condition specifically in mind, people with chronic dry eye syndrome might choose this to fight their dryness symptoms. Depending on what is causing your eyes to be dry in the first place, tear duct plugs may be the best treatment option for you.
Related: Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms and Causes
Tired & Itchy Eyes
If you notice that your eyes get tired a lot quicker and easier than they did in the past, you are experiencing a symptom which is really common for those who have dry eyes. The same goes for people who are experiencing constant feelings of discomfort and/or itchiness in their eyes. If you experience symptoms like this on a consistent basis, it is advised to visit a doctor and get a diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible. It is possible that they will recommend to trying using punctal plugs.
Related: Why Are My Eyes Itchy
Faulty Lacrimal Glands
If you have glands that don’t produce enough tears, it is common for you to encounter constant discomfort and dryness. After all, your eyes need tears to remain moist and healthy. If you are not able to produce tears as efficiently as you once were, installing punctal plugs can be a big help.
Although you may not necessarily be able to increase your tear production with the use of punctal plugs, they can also make it a lot more difficult for them to drain. This will help you to retain and make the most out of the tears that your glands do create.
Excess Tear Drainage
If you have already received the word from your eye doctor that you have excess tear drainage that is due to an improperly working tear drainage system, you might already know who you are. After all, people who have this problem will be the most immediate benefactors of punctal plugs. When you have excess tear drainage, your tears don’t stick around as long as they are supposed to and will drain away too quickly. This leaves your eyes with fewer tears on the surface, which is why you feel like your eyes are too dry. By installing punctal plugs, your eyes will start draining tears at a slower, more natural rate. This is why many people who had problems with dry eyes immediately make tear duct plugs their top-option.
Not Enough Tear Drainage
There are times where your tears aren’t able to drain as much as they are supposed to. This sort of condition is known in the medical community as punctal stenosis. In simple language, this is a condition where you have a tear draining tube which is clogged or too narrow. Instances like this are another great time for a doctor to recommend using punctal plugs.
The treatment process for using punctal plugs in those who have narrow tear drainage tubes is a little different than those whose are too large. The difference is that the tear duct plugs will only be inserted for an allotted time so that they can naturally stretch these ducts open. Typically, they will dissolve on their own within a month or so.
How Do Punctal Plugs Work?
Many people may be a little nervous just thinking about the idea of implanting any sort of device into their body, especially near your eyes. Feelings like these are completely normal for those who are considering punctal plugs. In reality, all that you need to do to remove feelings like this is take the time to educate yourself about how they work and how they are designed. Accordingly, let’s explore some basic background information about how these devices work.
A Tiny & Safe Device
Tear duct plugs need to be able to fit into a small part of the corner of your eyes. Regardless of whether your doctor wants them to dissolve within a short period of time, or sit for a long period of time, you will receive a device which is completely safe to have inside your body. Although there are a few exceptions that we will fully discuss later on, it’s important to understand that this product won’t cause any harm to your body.
To make this possible, punctal plugs need to be made with a material which doesn’t harm your eyes, or one that is prone to infection or complications. Typically, punctal plugs are made with silicone. Of course, this is a material that is trusted for many types of similar operations. Most importantly, the tear duct plugs are specifically designed to fit perfectly inside your tear ducts.
Helps Your Tear Drainage to Function Properly
Tears are produced in something called the lacrimal gland. The lacrimal gland sits right above your eyes, in-between your eyelid and eyebrow. As you blink, tears are naturally spread across the surface of your eyes, helping them to remain naturally moist.
Many of those who need punctal plugs don’t necessarily have problems producing tears, but rather, problems retaining and using their tears. Once your tears have been spread apart and used in your eyes, there will be times where old tears are replaced with new tears. However, the process of drainage can sometimes be quicker than the replenishing process. This is where tear duct plugs come into play.
Sits in Place to Keep Your Eyes Moist
As we just described, there is a very clear process to how tears are produced, used, and then drained. When you have dry eye syndrome, it is common that your eyes are draining tears too quickly. Tears are produced in one place, and then drained out in another. In order to keep your tears in your eyes for a little bit longer, you can install punctal plugs.
To be clear, punctal plugs are not designed to completely block your tear drainage. If this happened, your eyes would be permanently watery. You would also have tears pouring down your face all the time, almost as if you were constantly crying. They are designed to narrow out the drainage tube, so that your tears can spend more time doing their job on your eyes before being drained.
The Two Main Types of Tear Duct Plugs
There are two types of tear duct plugs that you will need to become familiar with. The type of tear duct plugs that you need will be dependent on your exact condition, and what caused you to need punctal plugs in the first place. Here are the two main types of tear duct plugs, some examples of when they are used, and some benefits and setbacks to keep in mind for both.
Semi-permanent tear duct plugs are typically used for patients who have enlarged tear drainage tubes and need to have a plug implanted indefinitely, so that their tears don’t drain faster than they should. Semi-permanent tear duct plugs are designed to stay implanted as long as possible.
Tear duct plugs like these are designed to last a long time, but this doesn’t mean that there are no potential problems along the way. Specifically, it is possible that they can move out of place. In some cases, tear duct plugs can do their job too well, and leave the patient with watery eyes.
Temporary punctal plugs are typically made with a synthetic material that will sit in place for a set period of time before dissolving naturally. These can be used to provide short-term relief and prevention for dry eyes. They might also be used after a procedure (like LASIK), where you can be at a higher risk of developing dry eye syndrome.
It is worth noting that many physicians will prefer semi-permanent tear duct plugs over temporary ones. The reason for this is simple. It is already a very simple procedure to both implant and remove punctal plugs. It is also a lot more convenient to install an ineffective semi-permanent plug and need to remove it than having to deal with a temporary one that causes further issues. One of these procedures has a lasting effect, the other doesn’t.
Implanting and Removing Tear Duct Plugs: Procedure Info
Making a decision such as putting tear duct plugs into your eyes is not something that you should take lightly. After all, this is a decision to put a foreign object into your eyes. This is probably not something that you will decide to do because of a spur of the moment decision. Many people will need to have lots of information to consider before they will feel comfortable making their decision. Here, we will describe the procedure involved in installing and removing tear duct plugs to help you get a better idea of what you should expect.
Start with an Exam and a Doctor’s Recommendation
If this hasn’t yet been made clear, let it be known. As with any sort of bodily procedure, the first thing that you will need is a proper diagnosis from your doctor. This needs to confirm that you have excess tear drainage, and that punctal plugs could be used to fight the problem.
Usually, tear duct plugs will only be one of the many different treatment options that your eye doctor will provide to you. Depending on your circumstance, they may recommend other forms of treatment first. However, punctal plugs are an option that you should keep in mind when discussing treatment options with your doctor. Just make sure that a qualified medical professional is there to sign off on your decision to get tear duct plugs. That way, you will have some peace of mind that you are making the right decision.
Painless & Short Procedure
One of the reasons why people may be a little nervous to have punctal plugs is that they don’t want to go through any sort of pain and suffering in the process. In reality, the process of installing and removing punctal plugs is very quick and painless. Taking around 5 minutes, the procedure won’t leave you with any giant scars, pain, or discomfort.
When you are finished with the procedure, there is usually no further treatment required. You simply go back to your life and continue living as normal. If you are one of the rare individuals who encounter complications afterward, they will be mild. Most importantly, there will never be a risk that you end up losing your vision because of punctal plugs.
Easily Implanted & Removed
As we mentioned, there are tear duct plugs which are installed to sit indefinitely, and those that are supposed to dissolve naturally. In either case, the process for installing tear ducts into place is very quick and easy for a qualified eye doctor to handle. The real tricky part of the procedure is knowing what to do, where to put the plugs, and what tools to use.
Since this is considered a noninvasive and simple procedure in the medical community, the risk of encountering further problems due to a failed surgery is very minimal. Whether you need to have your tear duct plugs implanted, removed, or adjusted, you will only need to commit to a process that takes 5 – 10 minutes.
High Success Rate
The success rate for those who receive tear duct implants is something which has been widely tested and documented in the medical community. Typically, the precise success rate has been calculated to be at least 76%, and as high as 96%. Since there are various reasons why you may need to have punctal plugs, as well as the possibility of minor errors, the success rate can also vary depending on your personal circumstances.
However, the absolute last thing that you should expect when you receive punctal plugs is some sort of resulting serious complication that puts you in a much worse position than you were in before. As we will discuss, there are some risks involved in this procedure. In any case, you will be able to be treated easily and quickly so that the punctal plugs work as they are supposed to should you encounter problems.
Require Routine Checkups Afterwards
Once you get your punctal plugs implanted, you aren’t done visiting the doctor. Depending on your personal case and condition, your eye doctor will schedule an appointment for you to come back within a particular time frame. There may also be a set of appointments that you will need to schedule.
In any case, when you get a semi-permanent punctal plug, it’s important for you to visit your doctor on a pretty consistent basis. You might choose to have one or two eye exams in a year, as an example. Times like this are also a great time for you to ask your eye doctor to check up on your punctal plugs.
Popular Treatments to Try Before Choosing Punctal Plugs
The most common reason that people will choose to get punctal plugs is that they have dry eye syndrome. This is a condition where you experience discomfort that comes with not having enough consistent tears on the surface of your eyes to keep them moist. As we have discussed, there are many benefits that can come to those who choose to have tear duct plugs. However, here are some of the other treatments to try using before getting punctal plugs.
Artificial tears are available without a prescription and are designed to work much as your natural tears do. They contain lubricating ingredients which help your eyes to remain moist. Artificial tears are one of the best ways to experience instant relief associated with dry eyes. They are also very affordable to keep around. Since they fit into your pocket and can be applied within a matter of seconds, many people with dry eye syndrome will keep artificial tears with them at all times.
Warm compresses are one of the most common and natural remedies that will be recommended to you by an eye doctor. It is also a very simple treatment for you to do at home. To start, all that you will need is a Warm Compress Eye Mask.
To do a warm compress, place the mask in your microwave for 20 seconds. After testing the temperature on the inside of your wrist, place the mask over your closed eyes and relax for 10-15 minutes. It’s that simple to find relief! We recommend clicking here to get the Heyedrate Warm Compress Eye Mask.
Natural Eyelid Cleansers
Sometimes, your dryness symptoms are not necessarily restricted to your eyes. Conditions like blepharitis, as an example, will commonly produce dryness symptoms around the eyes. Instances like this are great times to consider using natural cleansers, such as hypochlorous acid. Click here to try out the Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser, which is easy to use twice per day for cleansing the eyelids.
How Much Do Tear Duct Plugs Cost?
Depending on your insurance plan, you might not need to worry about budgeting for your punctal plugs. In many cases, those who have health insurance will have dry eye treatment covered. It is a pretty common thing for insurance to cover. If you don’t have insurance or coverage, it’s important to know what kind of price range to expect to receive tear duct plugs.
Without health insurance coverage, you will either need to shop around and compare prices in your local area or be willing to pay the price to have them implanted by the leading eye doctor in your area. Depending on your needs and personal circumstances, expect to pay anywhere between $500 – $2000 if you don’t have health insurance coverage for dry eye treatment.
Tear Duct Plugs: Risks & Potential Problems
There are many instances where getting punctal plugs will be a no-brainer for both you and your doctor. After all, tear duct plugs are widely recognized for being effective at helping you to fight dry eyes. They are also designed to be completely safe for use inside your body.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have some problems that develop as a result of your tear duct plugs. Here are some of the common risks and potential problems that can occur. To be clear, problems are not entirely common. They can still happen, though.
Allergic Reaction or Infection
Although the materials used for punctal plugs are completely harmless inside, there have been instances where people have developed an allergic reaction. One of the common materials used for punctal plugs is silicone. Of course, this is a material that is also used for other similar types of surgery where a patient receives an implant.
Even though your eye doctor will take all necessary precautions to ensure that a problem like an allergic reaction never occurs, mistakes and accidental problems can happen. Specifically, if you aren’t aware that you are allergic to a certain material used in your plugs, it is naturally a lot harder for you to tell your eye doctor in advance. In the case of an allergic reaction, your eye doctor will be able to quickly remove the implant and reverse any symptoms that may have developed.
Inflammation & Infection
In many cases, those who get punctal plugs won’t have any sort of negative reactions that develop. However, there are certain cases where people ended up developing inflammation. Since this is a sign that you may also have an infection, noticing a problem like this means that you should go right back to the doctor. Usually, some medication will get the inflammation and/or infection under control quickly.
Too Much Fluid
As we have discussed, the whole point of getting punctal plugs is to fight the uncomfortable symptoms that come with having dry eyes. By adding an extra barrier to the tubes where your tears naturally exit your eyes and drain, the eye doctor might use plugs that do too good of a job.
If your punctal plugs don’t allow enough room for your tears to drain as new tears are produced, then they will have nowhere to go. This can leave the patient with eyes that are too watery. If you encounter this problem, your doctor will either need to replace or adjust your tear duct plugs.
Medical professionals are human beings. They make mistakes too. Although this may be a common and simple procedure, there will always be the potential that your punctal plugs will end up being placed incorrectly. Thankfully, this is a very insignificant problem that can be fixed quickly. The biggest burden will likely be that you just need to spend more time in the office of your eye doctor.
Many of those who don’t get their plugs put in correctly will figure it out pretty quickly. The plug may start to stick out. You may even be able to feel it when you run your finger across the area. When something like this happens, the best thing that you can do is immediately go back to your doctor so that you don’t risk making things worse. Problems like this are another reason to have routine check-ups.
Tear Duct Plugs: What They Are & Who Should Use Them
Also known as punctal plugs, tear duct plugs are one of the best advancements in modern medicine for fighting dry eyes. Using a simple little plug which sits next to your eyes, they block your tears from draining quickly. As a result, those who use tear duct plugs will be able to make full use of their tears while fighting the discomfort that comes with having dry eyes.
Having tear duct plugs implanted is a very simple and safe procedure with very few potential risks. Many people will be able to have this procedure covered by their insurance. If you think this is the best way to get rid of your dry eye symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and ask whether or not that this will work for your individual condition and circumstances.