Dry eyes is a chronic progressive eye surface disease that affects a large number of us. There are a lot of risk factors and causes. Inflammation on the eye surface and eyelids are some of the main causes of dry eyes. This inflammation affects the ability of the eye to make good quality tears. If the eye surface does not have good quality tears, the tears evaporate quickly off the eye producing dry spots and thereby resulting in dry eyes.
Another cause of dry eyes is the inability of the eye to produce a sufficient quantity of tears. Tears drain through a small tear duct or opening in the eyelid called a puncta. When more tears are drained through the puncta than can be produced by the eye, it results in dry eyes.
If we could somehow block the puncta with a medical device, we could prevent the tears from draining. We would keep more of the tears on the eye surface and prevent the eye from drying out. This medical device is called a punctal plug. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can insert punctal plugs at their office and the procedure is painless and only takes several minutes.
A temporary punctal plug is tried and inserted first. They are made of collagen and are dissolvable. This is to determine if the permanent ones will relieve the patient’s dry eye symptoms and that they do not cause excessive tearing. The patient tries them for several days to ensure that their dry eye symptoms are indeed diminished. When the punctal plugs dissolve, he or she should also feel their dry eye symptoms getting worse once again. This confirms the effectiveness of the punctal plugs and the patient returns in 10 days to have the permanent ones inserted.
A primary reason for contact lens dissatisfaction and contact lens discontinuation is dryness and discomfort. Dry eyes often gets worse if one is on the computer several hours a day. The goal of managing contact lens related dry eyes and discomfort is to keep the patient in contact lenses and this involves medically managing the dry eyes. Management may require quite a few follow-up visits and a number of treatment strategies and punctal plugs has certainly remained a successful and viable option to treat dry eyes.