One way to alleviate dry eye is to help the eyes retain the small amount of lubricating tears they do produce. This is accomplished by closing off the small funnel-like drain hole found in the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids. The drain hole, called the punctum, can be closed with tiny plugs called punctal plugs. These plugs are either made of collagen, which are temporary and dissolve after a period of time, or of silicone, which are more permanent. The plugs can be placed in the two tear ducts, top and bottom, in both eyes or in only the lower ducts. The punctum can also be permanently closed with a heat or laser procedure.
If dry eye symptoms lessen when the temporary plugs are inserted, your doctor may consider permanent punctal occlusion.
Your treatment will be performed in an examination room. It does not require a surgery center. Drops will be used to numb your eye; no injections or needles are used.
Your doctor will place the plug into the corner of your eyelid using a forceps-like applicator. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes. Many patients report immediate relief from dry eye symptoms and resume normal activities immediately. For others it will take several days or weeks to see the results.
Serious complications with punctal occlusion are extremely rare, but like any medical procedure, it does have some risks. If you experience side effects, your doctor can usually remove the plugs.