What Are Punctal Plugs?
Once your eye doctor understands what may be triggering your dry eye symptoms, he or she can consider any combination of treatments for effective relief based on your individual dry eye diagnosis. One treatment option could be punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are a dry eye treatment that can be used alone or in combination with a preservative-free lubricant drop. They are smaller than a grain of rice and are placed in the punctum. Tears drain from your eyes through what is called the punctum and the canal below it called the canaliculous. Punctal plugs comfortably seal the drain, or punctum. This allows your own tears to remain on your eyes for a longer period of time. It is a simple non-invasive procedure done in the eye care provider’s practice.
There are short-term punctal plugs that dissolve in up to 3-5 days.
Medium term, or extended duration punctal plugs dissolve in up to 3 months, or up to 6 months.
These dissolvable plugs sit inside the canaliculus below the puncal opening and therefore are not visible. These are often called canalicular or intracanalicular plugs.
If a patient prefers that their long-term plugs not be visible, then consider intracanalicular plugs made from hydrogel, a soft gelatinous material. These sit within the canaliculous clear from view.
The traditional long term silicone punctal plug has a cap and anchor design. The silicone plugs have a slightly visible cap exposed over the punctal opening and an anchor that sits within the canaliculous to prevent, or reduce, the draining of tears.
Punctal plugs come in different sizes so it takes a few minutes for sizing and placement. The long-term silicone and hydrogel plugs are easily removed if necessary.