The Pros And Cons Of Punctal Plugs For The Management Of Autoimmune Dry Eye

Health & Medical Blog

Do you have chronic dry eye caused by an autoimmune condition such as Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus? There are a number of treatment options, many of which come in the form of eye drops or oral medications. However, there is one treatment option that is not an oral preparation or eye drop: punctal plugs.

Punctal plugs are little pieces of silicone that slip into your tear ducts. By taking up space in the tear duct, they greatly reduce the number of tears that can be reabsorbed into your tear duct. As such, those tears remain in your eyes, and your eyes don't feel nearly as dry. 

So are punctal plugs the right solution for your dry eyes? That depends. Consider these pros and cons, and talk to your doctor.

Pro: There are no serious side effects to worry about.

With prescription medications, there is always a risk of side effects. For instance, some of the medications often used to treat dry eye can cause visual blurriness, allergic reactions, and eye discharge. None of these side effects are a concern with Sjogren's syndrome.

Con: They can fall out and need to be replaced.

For some people, punctal plugs stay in for years without issue. For other people, they fall out every couple of months and need to be replaced. This can get a little annoying, and it's hard to know whether yours will be prone to falling out or not until you actually get punctal plugs.

Pro: Punctal plugs are affordable.

Many health insurance policies will cover most, if not all, of the cost of the punctal plugs. Having them inserted is quick, painless, and inexpensive, too. Even if you have to replace them every year or two, they will probably cost you less than picking up a monthly prescription, assuming you pay a copay on your prescription medications.

Con: Punctal plugs only work if you're producing a decent amount of tears.

If you're just a little short on your tear production, as is the case with many autoimmune patients, punctal plugs will do just fine. However, if you have a more serious case and you're barely making any tears at all, punctal plugs may not do enough. You may also need a prescription medication to increase tear production.

Consider the pros and cons above to determine whether punctal plugs are right for you. Your eye doctor can examine your eyes, measure your tear production, and help you with dry eye treatment.


30 October 2020

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