A new analysis has revealed that tiny plugs inserted into the tear duct may safely curb the annoying and damaging effects of dry eyes.
According to the team, patients with dry eyes who might benefit from plugs are those who have already tried eye drops and gels but still have itchy, red, painful eyes, blurred vision and the sensation of a foreign body in the eye.
Study author, Dr. Marcus Marcet noted that dry eye significantly impacts patients’ quality of life and if untreated, more severe cases of dry eye can result in vision loss due to corneal scarring.
The team's review looked at data on tiny semi-permanent punctal plugs (which are placed in the tear duct) and intracanalicular plugs (inserted deeper into the eye duct channel), and dissolvable plugs.
Both types of semi-permanent plugs offered long-term help for dry eyes, though a higher percentage of people in studies with intracanalicular plugs had more infections near the inner corner of the eyelid than did the people in punctal or dissolvable plug studies.
The few studies on dissolvable plugs reported temporary decreases in symptoms.
According to another co-author, Dr. Roni Shtein, the plugs are meant to slow the drainage of tears away from the eye surface so even if the body isn’t making enough tears, the moisturising effect of the available tears can be maximised.
Shtein reported that the most dangerous side effect of the plug is the development of severe inflammation or infection around it, which was reportedly quite rare.
Dr. Kristin Hammersmith, a corneal surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia said dry eyes are more common as people age and in women.