You've worn contact lenses for many years, but wearing contacts no longer comfortable for any length of time. Your eyes start feeling sore and gritty after a few hours, and you just want to take the contacts out and be done with it. You're probably experiencing chronic dry eyes, also known as dry eye syndrome. This is a relatively common condition, especially as people age. An optometrist can help you with devices known as punctal plugs. These medical devices fit into eyelid tear ducts and prevent tears from draining away.
Types of Punctal Plugs
Fast-dissolving Collagen Plugs
Some individuals begin with three-month dissolving plugs, but if you're concerned about whether these devices will feel comfortable, you might want to start with a product that generally dissolves within just a few days.
These collagen plugs rapidly expand to fill the duct in which they are placed. You should be able to see an area of tears at the bottom of your eye when you pull the lid back, which is normal moisture. Your eyes should also feel more comfortable when you're wearing contact lenses.
The doctor may first insert plugs in the main ducts of your lower eyelids. If this doesn't seem to work effectively before the plugs dissolve, you can have another set inserted in the same places as well as in the upper eyelids.
Three-month Dissolving Plugs
If the fast-dissolving plugs were completely successful at resolving your dry eye problems, you may want to try some that last longer. Three-month dissolving plugs also are made of collagen, but they are designed to dissolve more slowly.
Silicone has traditionally been the material of choice for tear duct plugs. Most people don't feel the silicone plugs, but some find them to cause irritation. Newer products are available: one made of acrylic and the other of a hydrogel material. These materials are softer than the rigid silicone.
Your eye doctor can remove any type of punctal plug if you decide you don't like them. Aside from some individuals being able to feel the silicone plugs, another problem that can occur with all the devices is over-effectiveness. That means your eyes would tend to be watery and perhaps leak tears.
Talk with the eye doctor about your problems wearing contact lenses and your interest in punctal plugs. During a thorough eye exam, your doctor can determine whether you're a good candidate for these medical devices. With his or her assistance, you can make smart choices about which products to try.
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