Part 5 of Our 5-Part Series: Punctal Plugs for Dry Eye

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help you protect your vision by reducing your risk for eye diseases, eye infections and eye injuries. Partnering with your ophthalmologist — an eye physician and surgeon — is another key to good eye health, especially for young children and older people. From vision screenings to treatment for common conditions like pink eye or more serious eye diseases, your ophthalmologist's care can make the difference between enjoying good vision and losing your eyesight.  

Sometimes, though, it is difficult to know how much eye care is enough, and which eye treatments are best for you. To help make sure you and your ophthalmologist choose wisely when you consider your treatment options, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has joined more than 30 other medical societies in the Choosing Wisely® campaign to encourage conversations between doctors and patients to discuss medical options.

Ophthalmologists have identified five specific tests and treatments that could benefit from doctor-patient conversations. They include:

This is the fifth in a series of articles that will discuss each item in detail.

Punctal Plugs for Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition that millions of Americans deal with daily. Most of the time, simple home remedies or over-the-counter eyedrops relieve people's scratchy, irritated eyes. Some people may wonder whether dry eye treatment with punctal plugs could solve the problem. The plugs work by temporarily blocking the tear drainage channel, in the inner corner of the eye, which keeps more moisture in the eye. Sounds like a logical solution, and for some patients with serious dry eye, it is.

But most people have the mild form of dry eye. For them, it makes more sense to use simple remedies and, if needed, over-the-counter treatments, along with changing any environment factors that could be causing dry eye. First of all, if you smoke, stop. Dry air can increase dry eye symptoms, so try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home. Other simple solutions include placing warm, moist cotton pads or washcloths over the eyes and using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops.

There are other things you can do to ease dry eye symptoms. If you use a computer or other digital screen all day, you may not be blinking often enough to spread the normal tear film over your eye. Try taping a reminder note to the edge of your screen! Normal tear film production depends on your getting enough sleep, so you have one more good reason to go to bed on time. Avoid spending too much time in windy environments, and wear wrap-around style sunglasses to protect your eyes from the wind. These remedies will usually restore a person's normal tear film and clear up dry eye. If the problem persists and makes good vision difficult, punctual plugs can be considered.

Ultimately, the best treatment for you will be up to you and your doctor. Choosing Wisely is all about making patient care even better and avoiding too much care that could possibly do harm. Having conversations with your doctor that help avoid unnecessary tests, medicines and procedures is one way to help keep you safe as a patient, and safeguard your pocketbook, too.

More information on the Choosing Wisely campaign is available at Choosing Wisely.

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