Punctal Plugs (Tear Duct Plugs)
Punctal plugs are tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, that we use to treat dry eye. We insert punctal plugs in a short, in-office procedure, into the tear ducts of your eye to block tear drainage. The purpose of the treatment is to increase the eye's tear film and surface lubrication to treat the symptoms of dry eye disease. Punctal plugs are known by other names such as punctum plugs, lacrimal plugs or occluders.
There are two types of tear duct plugs: semi-permanent and dissolvable.
Semi-permanent plugs can last indefinitely but can easily be removed when needed. Temporary plugs last form a few days to as long as several months and are used when dry eye symptoms are thought to be temporary such as following LASIK eye surgery. Temporary plugs can also be used as a test or "trial run" to determine if this type of treatment works for you.
The procedure to insert the plugs requires the doctor to measure the size of your tear duct opening (known as the puncta) to determine the correct size of punctal plug to use. This may also be accompanied by slit-lamp examination of the eye, involving light and magnification so that the doctor can get a close-up and detailed view of the puncta. Local anesthetic may also be used before inserting the plug to increase patient comfort but in many cases no anesthetic is required. Each eye lid has one punctum located in close to the nose, which means that there are two punctum in each eye. The doctor might insert a plug in one or both punctum for each eye, depending on the needs of the patient. Patients usually do not feel the plug after it is inserted.