Ocular Surface Disease (OSD) Clinic
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the eyes are insufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear ducts don’t produce enough tears, or because of a chemical imbalance in the tears.
Treatment for dry eye depends on the cause and severity of the condition, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preference. Non-surgical treatments are often effective, and may include the following:
- Blinking on purpose
- Increasing humidity levels at home or work
- Use artificial tears or a moisturizing ointment
- Stop smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
- Avoiding air conditioning or windy conditions outdoors
- Stop the use of allergy and cold medicines
- Adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet as food or supplements
If non-surgical methods are unsuccessful, surgical treatments may be an option.
Punctal plugs, also known as punctum plugs, lacrimal plugs or occluders, are a method of treating dry eyes. Punctal plugs can relieve dry eye symptoms when eye drops or ointments fail. Punctal plugs are placed in the opening of the tear duct, reducing the natural drainage of tears and keeping the eyes moist. Punctal plugs can be a temporary or permanent solution to dry eyes.
Typically, a temporary or dissolvable punctal plug is implanted in the lower drainage channel of the eye, which is responsible for 80 percent of the eye’s tears. These temporary plugs will usually last a few days to several months. If there is a successful response to the temporary punctal plug, a more permanent punctal plug is implanted.
Punctal plugs come in a few different shapes and sizes, and are no larger than a grain of rice. The plug may be placed in the lower or upper eyelid or both eyelids. Implantation takes only a few seconds in a physician’s office.