Usually if you suffer from dry eyes, your eye doctor can prescribe a medication that will increase your tear production and help ease the dryness. Most patients tolerate these medications well, but there are exceptions. If you've suffered side effects due to dry eye medications or if your doctor recommends against them due to preexisting health conditions or drug interactions, then you may want to look into an alternative: punctal plugs.
What Are Punctal Plugs?
Punctal plugs are little, oblong pieces of silicone that are placed in the tubes leading to your tear ducts. The tear ducts do not produce tears; they are actually the part of your eye that re-absorbs tears. Their mere presence in the tear ducts keeps tears from flowing into those ducts. Since the tears, therefore, stay on your eye's surface for longer, your eyes feel a lot less dry. There are two tubes, or puncta, leading to each tear duct. Depending on the severity of your eye dryness, your eye doctor may place plugs in one or both of these puncta.
Do Punctal Plugs Hurt?
The procedure of having the plugs put into place is not painful. Most eye doctors will put numbing drops in your eyes before they insert the plugs so you won't feel a thing during the process. You will see the eye doctor using what looks like a set of tweezers to place the plug in your eye, but the whole process only takes a few seconds. When the anesthesia wears off, you may feel a sensation of fullness in or around your eyes, but there should not be any pain. You will get over this feeling within a few days, and then the only thing you will notice is that your eyes feel less dry.
What Are The Downsides and Risks Associated With Punctal Plugs?
While most patients benefit greatly from punctal plugs, there are a few minor risks to be aware of. Occasionally the plugs will dislodge themselves partially and rub against your eye, which can be irritating. This is easily fixed by your eye doctor, but you will have to go into their office.
Your risk of eye infections is also slightly increased with punctal plugs. You will need to keep your eyes clean, avoid touching in or around your eyes with unwashed hands, and reach out to your eye doctor at the first sign of eye irritation or redness.
If you can't take dry eye meds, punctal plugs are a great alternative. They're painless and effective, and the risk is low. Speak with a doctor about this and other dry eye treatments.