Patient Resources

Punctual Plugs

What Are Punctal Plugs?

Punctal plugs are tiny devices that are placed in the eye’s tear ducts (called puncta). Puncta are the tiny openings that drain tears from your eyes. About the size of a grain of rice, the plug stops fluid from draining from the eye. This helps keep the eye’s surface moist and comfortable, relieving itchy, burning and red eyes.

Punctal plugs are also called punctum plugs, lacrimal plugs or occluders. Usually they are inserted in the puncta of the upper or lower eyelids, or in both. Another type of plug is placed in a deeper part of the tear duct (the canaliculus).

Two Types of Punctal Plugs

Temporary/dissolving plugs

These are made of a material (such as collagen) that gradually breaks down and is absorbed by the body. These plugs can last in the eye from a few days to months. Temporary plugs are often used to keep the eye moist after having refractive surgery, such as LASIK. They are also used when you want to try out punctal plugs to see if they help relieve your dry eye.

Semi-permanent plugs

These are made of a longer-lasting medical plastic (such as silicone or acrylic). These plugs are designed to stay in the eye for years. They can be removed by your ophthalmologist if needed.

Another type of semi-permanent punctal plug is placed in a deeper part of the tear duct called the canaliculus. These plugs cannot be seen at all in the eye.

How Are Punctal Plugs Inserted?

In office, Dr. Mai will examine your eye to figure out the best type and size plug for your needs.

She will then numb your tear ducts with anesthesia. You may feel some pressure as the punctal plug is placed in your eyelid.

After the plugs are inserted, you are usually able to return to your normal activities right away.

Punctal Plug Possible Risks and Side Effects

As with any treatment or procedure, punctal plugs can have possible risks and side effects.

The most common side effect is having a scratchy or irritating feeling in the corner of your eye. Many people find this feeling goes away or they simply get used to it.


Other side effects and risks may include the following:

  • Punctal plugs might make your eyes watery with too many tears. Your plugs may need to be taken out, or they may be replaced with a different type for better tear control.
  • Plugs may move or come out of the eye, usually from rigorous rubbing of your eyes.
  • Plugs that don’t fit properly could stick out of the tear duct and rub against the surface of your eye or eyelid.
  • Sometimes punctal plugs can irritate the tear ducts. The plugs may cause redness and swelling (inflammation) in the tear duct. Ongoing inflammation can scar or damage the tear ducts.
  • Some types of eye infections can occur, though rarely. Some infections may need to be treated with antibiotics. Dr. Mai will treat the infection and will want to remove the plug(s).  

As always, if you experience eye pain, vision loss or serious discomfort, call and return to our clinic.

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