For patients who suffer from chronic dry eyes, treatment options can vary greatly. From Fish Oil to punctal plugs, the range of treatment options are often a confusing array of outcomes and costs. If your doctor has recommended punctal plugs, there are a few things you should know.
Types and Cost Can Vary
One treatment option seen recently is plugging the tiny tear ducts that supply the eyes with tears. The small opening, called the punctum, is located at the inner corner of the lower and upper eyelids. These plugs can shore up tears for dry eye relief, provided you produce enough tears.
There are three different types of punctal plugs: collagen, silicone, and intracancanalicular.
Collagen plugs are temporary and will dissolve in a few days. Silicone plugs are made to last longer, but often, these types of plugs fall out before intended. Intracanalicular plugs go deep into the tear duct and can remain in place for years. However, when tear ducts are plugged, infection can set in and surgery will be required to remove the plugs.
However, experts retort that the eyes rarely produce enough tears to be shored up and the eyes can actually become dryer with the insertion of the punctal plugs.
Eyes Need Natural Tears
While lack of tears can cause dry eyes. Excess tears ( watery dry eyes) can also cause dry eyes by washing away the protective layer of mucus, oils, and fluids that protect the eye. Striking a balance between over and underproduction of tears is necessary.
Punctal plugs definitely can shore up the number of tears to stay in the eyes longer for dry eye relief. Keep in mind that artificial tears have been shown to cause the eyes to dry out further when used on a regular basis.
One study even showed a patient who stopped artifical tear usage and increased her daily water intake had relief from dry eyes that had plagued her for 5 years. Along with other homeopathic measures, this patient needed no further dry eye treatment.
Plugs Will Fall Out
Even after going through the trouble of having plugs placed into the tear ducts, they will fall out 50% of the time. Since the tear ducts were not intended to be plugged, the natural pressure of the tears beneath often push the plugs out of the patient’s eye.
In other cases, when the ducts are no longer wanted, painful surgery is required in order to remove the plugs. Removing plugs often costs more than the initial cost to place them into the tear ducts.
Eye Infections Can Occur
Punctal plugs can ultimately cause eye infections. When the eye surface encounters dirt or debris, tears can wash away. When the eyes cannot wash away bacteria and debris carried by tears by draining through the tear duct, infection can set in causing severe pain in the eyes.
In addition, since the tears beneath the plug are not able to flow towards the eye, if there is any infection or bacteria underneath the plugs, extreme pain and pressure can occur. Then the plugs would need to be removed surgically.
In addition to cost, type, permanence, and infection, WebMD reports there are additional risks to punctal plugs:
- An uncomfortable, scratchy feeling located in the corner of the eyes.
- An allergic reaction to the materials used to make the plugs.
- Plugs that stick out and rub the top surface of the eye that can lead to damage of the eye.
- Epiphora, or eyes that water too much.
- Damage to the tear duct that requires surgery.
A good option is to consider a natural way to increase tear production for dry eye relief. Make your own tears, not using eye drops. To learn more, click here