If you have dry eye syndrome, you’re not alone. Dry eye syndrome — a disorder of the eye’s tear film that causes it to decrease tear and moisture production — is one of the most common complaints that eye care professionals receive. Up to 20 percent of adults are diagnosed with dry eye syndrome during their lives.
Your tears are made up of a combination of water, fatty oils, and mucus. This complex combination of elements keeps the surface of your eye smooth and moist. When your eye isn’t producing enough moisture, the surface becomes dried out and uncomfortable. It also can lead to infection, because your eye is not as able to repel bacteria when it is drier than it should be.
All symptoms, potential procedural/surgical options should always be discussed with your physician after a thorough consultation and examination for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Punctal plugs, or lacrimal plugs, are tiny biocompatible devices placed in your tear ducts (punctum) to block drainage during a procedure called punctal occlusion. This blockage helps keep your eyes moist by saving your tears and any artificial tears that you may be using. These plugs are removable when your condition improves.
There are two kinds of punctual plugs:
Your doctor may attempt a punctal occlusion with a solution that has the least permanence first, to see if it benefits you. If it does, the more permanent version is installed.
Your doctor has the option of using five different shapes of punctual plugs:
Your doctor can also use a more permanent solution called thermal cautery. This procedure uses heat to permanently block the tear ducts, forcing the tears you produce naturally and artificial tears to stay in your eye.
None of these solutions provide relief from the regimen of artificial tears, however. You need to use artificial tears indefinitely to supplement your own body’s tear production. These procedures assist your body in keeping your eyes sufficiently moist for comfort and prevention of infection.
Prior to the procedure, your doctor measures the size and shape of your tear ducts using a special instrument. This helps determine which type to use, and where to place them for maximum benefit. Before the procedure, your doctor may use a local, topical anesthetic, but in many cases none is needed. The procedure, done in your doctor’s office, takes only minutes to complete with little to no discomfort.
Each of your eyes has two punctum, one on each eyelid. Plugs can be inserted in one or both. Your doctor may also use a special instrument to enlarge the punctum, making insertion easier. Most often, this procedure is quick and painless. After the process, you can go home to resume normal activities almost immediately.
Rarely, a plug that has been inserted falls out or migrates outside the intended area, where it can be carried further down into the drainage channel of the eye. This can create blockages, swelling, and pain. If this happens, contact your doctor right away to avoid further complications such as infection or damage. Flushing out the dislodged plug gives you immediate relief.
Another rare occurrence involves plugs that work too well, leading to a condition called epiphora. This condition causes too much tearing. You can get relief by just taking the plug out. Also rare is an infection that’s easily treated with antibiotics.
Talk to your ophthalmologist about your condition to receive the simple solution. The symptoms of dry eye to watch for include:
See your doctor if the symptoms listed above are present for a long period of time or if the irritation makes your eyes painful. Your ophthalmologist evaluates your situation to decide which course of treatment is best for your situation.
There are a number of causes for this condition, which actually is quite common. A few reasons why you may have dry eyes include:
You could also have dry eyes because of increased tear evaporation. Causes of this are often environmental and can include:
Another cause could be an imbalance in the composition of your tears. Any problems with the mixture of water, oil, and mucus could lead to dry eye syndrome.
Dry eyes can lead to additional problems with your eyes. Without that smooth moist surface, your eyes become vulnerable to a number of issues, including:
Most of the time, dry eyes can be treated with over-the-counter artificial tears (eye drops). Used regularly, they can relieve the symptoms of dry eye and prevent any complications. If the eye drops don’t help and your symptoms are more serious, you may require a punctal occlusion.
Sometimes, treatment can involve changing the conditions that cause your dry eyes. Other remedies can stop your tears from draining too quickly, or improve the quality of your tears. Additionally, treating an underlying health problem can relieve the symptoms of dry eye. If these solutions don’t produce the desired relief, then the simple surgical options may be best.
All symptoms, potential procedural/surgical options should always be discussed with your physician after a thorough consultation and examination for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 251-220-8228 or request an appointment online.